Continued modal shift will sustain expansion in the containerised reefer trade, according to Drewry’s Reefer Shipping Annual Review and Forecast 2018/19.
The sector has grown significantly recently, posting a gain of over 5% in 2017 to 124 million tonnes.
This marks a big improvement on the annual average growth of 3.6% over the past 10 years.
Drewry has also estimated that containerised reefer traffic expanded by 8% in 2017, outpacing the growth in overall seaborne reefer trade due to a continued shift of cargo from the declining specialised reefer fleet to the container mode.
Neil Davidson, of Drewry, discusses retrofit terminal automation in a recent Port Technology technical paper
Commenting on the latest report’s findings, Martin Dixon, Director of Research Products at Drewry, said: “This modal shift in favour of container shipping lines is expected to continue as the specialised fleet shrinks further.
“Indeed the specialised sector’s share of total seaborne reefer trade is forecast to fall from 20% today to just 14% for 2022, with container lines picking up the slack.”
Despite the growth of this trade, container equipment availability is still an issue, particularly in hinterland locations where carriers have been reluctant to reposition empty reefer boxes.
On this topic, Dixon added: “Buoyant trade development and tight availability of container equipment in certain regions have enabled some strengthening in reefer container freight rates relative to dry freight pricing.
“These dynamics are expected to further support reefer container freight pricing over the next few years.”
Drewry has also reported that despite broader weakness in the container shipping market, reefer rates have held up, rewarding those carriers that have chosen to invest in the cargo segment.