Catalina Connection

Avalon Freight Services continues to supply Catalina Island

Shipping line earned right to cross channel for delivery of provisions after contentious battle.

SAN PEDRO — Avalon, it has long been noted, is mostly devoid of chain or franchise businesses, yet the local ma-and-pa shops still rely upon the mainland for a vast majority of its supplies. Boaters and residents certainly have the option of trekking across the channel to a Costco in Long Beach, Signal Hill or elsewhere in Southern California when it comes time to stock up on provisions or fill the pantry. Yet those aisles of fruits and vegetables at the Vons on Metropole Avenue, the cleaning supplies used at the Pavilion or the products available for sale at Island Breeze Spa and Salon are often brought into town by Avalon Freight Services, the year-round goods transportation vessel navigating to and from the island from San Pedro.

Catalina Island’s only incorporated municipality – and, let’s be fair, the only unincorporated town on the other side of the island, as well – relies upon Avalon Freight Services to bring in a boatload of goods and services for tourists, visitors, residents, boaters and business owners to consume or sell.

Avalon Freight Services is based on the mainland and sets sail from the Port of Los Angeles to Catalina Island with various items on board, such as perishable food, supplies for local hotels or consumer goods. Trips are made Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. Chartered navigations are also available. The transportation company only accepts non-perishable items for cross-channel delivery on Saturdays.

Goods navigating aboard Avalon Freight Services across Catalina Channel became the norm in 2016 when federal regulatory battle was settled. Avalon Freight Services came out ahead of that battle when federal trade officials granted the transportation company permission to deliver bottled water, fruits, meats, vegetables and other goods (both perishable and non-perishable) from Los Angeles to Catalina Island.

The company, a partnership between Catalina Express and Seattle-based Hanley Marine, began crossing the channel on a regular basis on April 1, 2016. Freight transport to and from Avalon was the subject of a major dispute in the months and years leading up to Avalon Freight Services’ presence at Berth 95 and Catalina Island. The Public Utilities Commission deliberated whether or not the delivery of goods and services to and from the island was subject to a monopoly.

Coverage of the issue in The Log in 2015 explained Catalina Freight Line provided transportation of goods to and from the island.

“Catalina Freight Line has delivered inventory for markets, restaurants and other important goods to the island for more than 40 years,” The Log’s coverage stated in July 2015. “It has been the only company to ship packages, food, furniture, appliances, vehicles, small boats, fuel, heavy equipment, pets and waste to and from Catalina.

It was ultimately decided to grant Avalon Freight Services a license for goods transportation – but the permission also kept the door open for competition to exist.

More than two years has passed since the dust has settled and goods continue to flow to Catalina Island, allowing its boaters, businesses, residents and visitors to have access items they don’t have to supply for themselves. It isn’t always easy to make a Costco run when there’s 20-plus miles of Pacific Ocean in between you and the consumer wholesaler.

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