Container shipping lines are increasing their share of the seaborne reefer
market and are forecast to accelerate their assault over the coming years,
according to the latest edition of the Reefer Shipping Market Review 2017/18
published by global shipping consultancy Drewry.
The estimated perishable reefer cargo split was 79 per cent in reefer
containerships and 21 per cent in specialised reefers in 2016. By 2021, this
modal split is forecast to have changed to nearer 85 per cent and 15 per cent
in reefer containerships and specialised reefers, respectively, Drewry said in
In an another interesting development in 2017, one saw specialised reefer
operator Seatrade team up with CMA CGM to provide a 13-vessel reefer container
service offering a weekly sailing between Europe and Australasia. It remains to
be seen whether this sets a trend for the industry.
The resilience of the industry to adverse economic, commercial and even
climatic conditions has been demonstrated once again as seaborne perishable
reefer trade increased in 2016 and is forecast to grow further still in 2017.
This year Drewry has incorporated the pharmaceuticals, cut flowers and
confectionery sectors into its assessment of the reefer market, adding up to
3.3 million tonnes of seaborne cargo in 2016. By 2021, seaborne reefer cargo
will exceed 134 million tonnes—increasing by an average of 2.8 per cent per
annum, according to Drewry’s report.
Despite future seaborne cargo growth levels being lower than those of the
last decade (3.3 per cent), such increases will have a significant effect on
container lines with reefer capacity.
With almost 400 containerships with reefer capacity yet to be delivered,
and possibly more still to be confirmed, Drewry looked at the effect this will
have not only on overall cargo tonnes carried, but also on capacity
Based on the confirmed order book, despite significant increases in reefer
(container) capacity, reefer utilisation will remain broadly stable as a result
of the increased seaborne cargo volumes and rising market share for the reefer
On the other hand, with a reducing specialised reefer fleet, not only will
this mode see its cargo volumes decrease, but also its market share will reduce
year-on-year. Nevertheless, it currently provides around 5 per cent of overall
reefer capacity yet carries almost 21 per cent of total seaborne perishable
reefer cargo. Inevitably, although still carrying a disproportionate volume of
cargo, both cargo tonnes and market share are set to fall for this mode.
Drewry has continued to analyse the total global TEU of perishable reefer
cargoes by commodity. In addition, the report looks at almost 30 key trade
lanes and compares reefer TEU volumes for 2016 with those for 2015, as well as
calculating the reefer percentage of the overall (reefer and dry) trade.
One area to watch is the potential lack of reefer container equipment. A
lack of recent investment has already led to shortages in Europe and Brazil
during the second quarter of this year, a situation that is likely to repeat
itself. Although carrier consolidation may result in an improvement in
container utilisation and efficiency, the lack of container equipment orders
placed in 2017 is a concern, the release pointed out.
"The reefer sector continues to report strong cargo growth which is
very encouraging for vessel operators. However, the transition from the
specialised operators to the reefer containership operators is gaining momentum",
according to Drewry’s reports.