Amidst 2022’s Trade Contraction, Reefer Shipping Holds Strong and Resilient

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Credit: Shaah Shahidh/ unsplash

Reefer container freight rates defy odds, surpass dry cargo trade, despite 2022’s sea trade slump. Drewry’s latest report predicts this trend to persist.

Rare Contraction

Drewry estimates that total worldwide seaborne reefer cargo declined to 137.5 million tonnes last year, representing a fall of almost 1%, the first time in over 20 years and compared to flatlining trade for dry cargo.

Key Reefer commodities

  • meat,
  • bananas,
  • fresh vegetables

Containerized reefer trade contracted 0.7% in 2022, as the continued decline in specialized reefer ship carryings cushioned the blow of weaker cargo demand and broadly matched the fall in overall containerized liftings in the year.

These positive developments have driven a return to year-on-year growth on every key reefer-intensive trade route so far this year, with seaborne volumes projected to rise 1.5% by the end of the year.

Steady Decline

Reefer container freight rates have been declining since their peak of 3Q22 but at a more measured pace than for dry freight. Reefer’s milder peak, thanks to annual contracts, and robust North-South routes for reefer cargo explain this resilience.

Drewry’s Global Reefer Container Freight Rate Index, a weighted average of pricing across the top 15 reefer-intensive deep sea trades, declined 22% to $4,840 per 40ft in the year to 2Q23. And initial indications show that the fall will have accelerated to 31% by the third quarter.

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Source: Fresh Plaza