Despite many adversities for the maritime sector over the last year, seaborne perishable reefer trade increased in 2015 and is forecast to grow further still in 2016. By 2020, seaborne reefer cargo will reach 120 million tonnes, increasing by an average of 2.5% per annum, according to global shipping consultancy Drewry.
While future seaborne cargo growth levels are lower than those of the last decade (3.1%), such increases are expected to have a direct effect on both container lines with reefer capacity and specialised reefer operators.
With over 400 containerships with reefer capacity yet to be delivered, and possibly more still to be confirmed, Drewry believes that reefer utilisation will improve as a result of the increased seaborne cargo volumes and rising market share for the reefer containership mode.
“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,” Drewry said.
Nevertheless, it currently provides around 5% of overall reefer capacity yet carries in excess of 23% of total seaborne perishable reefer cargo and is set to continue to “punch above its weight”.
“Drewry estimates that the container sector as a whole made $4 billion in profits over 2015, but as the year progressed momentum slowed as demand weakened. This in turn impacted freight rates in the specialised reefer sector as container lines chased every available dollar. As a result, reefer shipping has become increasingly unprofitable in 2016, along with dry cargo trades,” said the editor of Reefer Shipping Market Review and Forecast 2016/17 report, Kevin Harding.