20% Increase In Reefer Containership Capacity


Drewry’s Reefer Shipping Market Annual Review & Forecast has predicted a growth of 20% over the next three years in global capacity of refrigerated container (Reefer) vessels.


Drewry’s latest Reefer Shipping Market Annual Review & Forecast has predicted an increase of 6% in reefer containership fleet year-on-year and is set to grow 20% by 2018 in the global capacity of refrigerated container (Reefer) vessels. This growth would happen despite the shrinkages of the specialized reefer fleet.

Along with the significant increase in reefer containership capacity, cargo growth is also forecasted to be strong.  The specialized reefer fleet sector may be at a loss of 4 million metric tons of cargo to container ships by 2018.  This can lead to utilization levels of the reefer containership fleet unaffected over the next few years at 20.4 to 20.6 cargo tonnes per ‘000 cubic feet equivalent of reefer container capacity.

In order to make the containership operators competitive in the era of super-slow and ultra-slow steaming due to the lengthy voyage times and trans-shipment services, many container carriers are concentrating on reefer-intensive services to compete with the specialized mode.  Kevin Harding, editor of the report proposed that specialized reefer fleet has an average age of 25 years and there is little likelihood of new buildings in the large size range at least.

The decline in the specialized sector is not accepted well by all reefer operators. Seatrade has rebranded itself as an FDD operator: Fast, Direct and Dedicate acquiring six vessels of between 500 and 700 feu of reefer capacity.  It is investing in fully containerized reefer vessels so as to differentiate itself from the liner container carriers with shorter transit times, direct routings and reefer-dedicated box shipping services.

Despite the fleet changes for both modes of transport, cargo flows are forecast to continue to increase.  Further, the anticipated El Niño event in 2015/16 will test the market on a global basis.

Harding said, “Overall utilization levels are forecast to be relatively stable, although undoubtedly there will continue to be strong competition between the modes at a trade lane level”.

Source: Drewry Maritime Research