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‘Peak season’ to yield spectacular returns for reefer owners

Wild Peony reefer ship.jpg
Owners of specialised reefer vessels have not had much to cheer about recently as refrigerated slots on container ships continue to multiply, however, boxshipping congestion and sky-high freight rates have given the sector a shot in the arm.

As a result as this year’s peak season gets under way – corresponding to summer in the southern hemisphere – the outlook is much brighter.

This was one of the conclusions of experts at a recent Drewry webinar on the subject. The shipping consultancy gave a snapshot of some of the data contained in its recently published Reefer Shipping Annual Review and Forecaster 2021/22.

Global reefer trade had already rebounded over the first six months of 2021 after an inevitable Covid-related dip last year, but a range of other factors are now propelling the sector to new heights. These include record freight rates in the liner trades, which appear set to remain in place for months to come, worsening port congestion, and reefer boxes that are either held up or at the wrong end of a trade lane.

Following the best off-season on record, specialised reefer ship owners can look forward to months of highly profitable business as the peak season progresses. Specialised reefer capacity is likely to be in high demand for perishable produce, which of course is always time critical.

However, in the longer term, the steady decline of this specialised shipping sector is unlikely to halt, as more perishable cargo is shipped on container vessels, and specialised reefer ship owners dare not shell out for new ships.

According to Drewry statistics, perishable cargo shipped by specialised vessels is likely to fall from 12% last year, to just 7.6% in 2025.

Over the five-year period, containerised volumes are expected to grow by a compound annual growth rate of 5.3%, taking liner companies’ share of total trade from 86.8% in 2020 to 91.3% by 2025, according to the analyst’s projections. Much of the overall growth in trade is driven by steadily rising Asian demand for perishable produce.   

Over the five years, Drewry also expects the specialised reefer fleet to continue its decline – down by about 9% by mid-decade. The strong market has meant virtually no demolition sales this year, however, despite the temptation of high prices in the world’s Indian subcontinent recycling hub .


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