“The seaborne perishabe reefer trade has proven remarkably resiliant to global issues, be they economic or climatic. Although individual trades may have experienced difficulties, overall there’s been a steady growth,” starts out the Reefer shipping market annual review and forecast webinar by Drewry, which makes in-depth data and analysis on recent trends and outlook.
According to the audiovisual session, which shows information and graphics from the Reefer shipping market annual review and forecast report, the reefer fleet is expanding driven by sustained growth in seaborne perishable traffic, but also a continual shift away from dedicated specialized reefer ships in favor of box transports.
As far as busy trades, Asia and South America dominate seaborne reefer transport. Routes such as ECSA-Europe (30% of total cargo in that trade –container, bulk, etc); ECSA- Asia (33%) and ECSA-ME (65%) move the largest volumes of perishable reefer cargo, mainly cargo from Brazil in meat/poulry, citrus fruits and pears. Reefer volume cargo has increased 6,4% on average over the last 5 years.
Specialized fleet v/s containers
In 2006, seaborne reefer trade stood at 85 million tons, while in 2016 volume had spiked to 117 million tons, showing an annual growth rate of 3.2%. According to Drewry experts, seaborne reefer cargo will exceed 134 million tons 2021 (2016-2021 2.8% y-o-y growth rate). Growth is forecast in all sectors (bananas, fish/seafood, cut flowers, citrus, meat/poultry, confectionary, deciduous, dairy, exotics, pharma and others).
Overall reefer container fleet is growing at average annual rate of 8%, while overall containership capacity is growing at 5% per year. Reefer share of overall containership capacity has grown from 16% to 20% in 5 year period to July 2016. Of the 5,150 containerships in the global fleet in July 2016, there was a total reefer capacify just shy of 4 million TEU. Capacity will increase by 12% by 2020 according to confirmed orderbook.
Meanwhile, specialized reefer fleet peaked in 1999 at 900 vessels, with 299 million cubic feet of underdeck capacity, and has been in decline ever since. This year there are only 546 specialized vessels -almost 40% the peaked fleet-, with a total 183 million cubic feet of underdek capacity. In 2016, specialized reefer fleet carried 21% of total seaborne perishable cargo; by 2021 it will carry less than 15%.
Pros and cons
Although specialized fleet is on the downturn, reefer container capacity will take its place in growth, keeping reefer demand satisfied with reefer rates expected to rise over time. But, as the containership industry consolidates further, in paralell to the disappearance of the specialized mode, will it result in upwards freight rate pressure and lack of choice? Drewry also believes that shippers could benefit from cost savings and new solutions provided by the ever-changing containership industry.
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