Executive Briefings

Perishable Refrigerated Trade Increases Worldwide

Worldwide perishable reefer trade increased by 52.1 million tonnes between 2002 and 2012, which represents a combined annual growth rate of 3.6 percent, according to Drewry's latest Reefer Shipping Market Annual Review and Forecast.   Seaborne perishable reefer cargo has increased by a CAGR of 3.3 percent (25.6 million tonnes) from 66.8 million tonnes in 2002 to 92.4 million tonnes in 2012.

The highest percentage growth continues to be seen in the exotic fruit category (pineapples, kiwifruit and avocados). Despite its relatively small volume of 4.5 million tonnes in 2012, this sector has grown by a CAGR of 9.1 percent since 2002. In terms of tonnage, the highest growth has been in the meat category (comprising poultry, pork, beef/veal, offal and sheep meat). This grew from 22.8 million tonnes in 2002 to 36.3 million tonnes in 2012 - a CAGR of 4.8 percent. Seaborne trade in the meat category has grown by 8.3 million tonnes - a CAGR of 4.6 percent.

Kevin Harding, editor of the report, says, " It is important to note that the import patterns have changed considerably during the past decade. Western Europe has declined to a 38-percent share of worldwide imports - although still importing 66 million tonnes of cargo in 2012. Eastern Europe's importance has grown from an 11-percent share in 2002 to a 13-percent share in 2012 - with cargo tonnage increasing by 76 percent over this period."

Despite losses for many containership operators, collectively the industry managed to return a small profit for 2012. In the specialised reefer segment, Seatrade retains its position as the largest reefer operator - but with a reduced fleet of 77 vessels, providing over 51 million cubic feet of on-deck and under-deck capacity, which is some 12.5 percent less than that of one year ago. Nevertheless, it still controls in excess of 20 percent of the world's specialised reefer fleet capacity of vessels greater than 100,000 cubic feet.

The average age of the fleet of 600 specialised reefer ships greater than 100,000 cubic feet has increased to 24 years - despite continued heavy scrapping during the past 12 months. Star Reefers has the youngest fleet among the major operators (with an average age of 14 years), while Baltic Reefers has the oldest with an average age of 28 years.

The first half of 2013 appeared to herald the start of a long awaited upturn for the specialised reefer industry. Time charter rates improved, scrapping had shrunk the fleet to more manageable levels and the containership industry finally seemed to understand that life was not all about market share.

Harding summarised the state of the market, saying, "The two modes of transport have experienced mixed fortunes. With the continued shrinking of the specialised reefer fleet, it is unavoidable that increased cargo volumes, no matter how small, will have to be shipped by reefer container vessels. The market share between the two modes continues to move in favour of the containership and, with the specialised reefer orderbook remaining at zero (at least for the time being), it is inevitable that this trend will continue.

"The containership mode is forecast to provide in excess of 94 percent of overall reefer tonnage within the next few years. However, the specialised reefer industry is focused purely on refrigerated cargoes and is able to optimise cargo carriage and voyage times - thereby providing a higher percentage of annualised cargo capacity than the figures might otherwise suggest. Thus, the statistics continue to demonstrate that cargo volumes can be accommodated over both modes of transport. Forward utilisation levels for specialised reefer ships are forecast to remain stable, although total cargo tonnes carried are forecast to reduce year-on-year as the fleet shrinks."

Source: Drewry Maritime Research

The highest percentage growth continues to be seen in the exotic fruit category (pineapples, kiwifruit and avocados). Despite its relatively small volume of 4.5 million tonnes in 2012, this sector has grown by a CAGR of 9.1 percent since 2002. In terms of tonnage, the highest growth has been in the meat category (comprising poultry, pork, beef/veal, offal and sheep meat). This grew from 22.8 million tonnes in 2002 to 36.3 million tonnes in 2012 - a CAGR of 4.8 percent. Seaborne trade in the meat category has grown by 8.3 million tonnes - a CAGR of 4.6 percent.

Kevin Harding, editor of the report, says, " It is important to note that the import patterns have changed considerably during the past decade. Western Europe has declined to a 38-percent share of worldwide imports - although still importing 66 million tonnes of cargo in 2012. Eastern Europe's importance has grown from an 11-percent share in 2002 to a 13-percent share in 2012 - with cargo tonnage increasing by 76 percent over this period."

Despite losses for many containership operators, collectively the industry managed to return a small profit for 2012. In the specialised reefer segment, Seatrade retains its position as the largest reefer operator - but with a reduced fleet of 77 vessels, providing over 51 million cubic feet of on-deck and under-deck capacity, which is some 12.5 percent less than that of one year ago. Nevertheless, it still controls in excess of 20 percent of the world's specialised reefer fleet capacity of vessels greater than 100,000 cubic feet.

The average age of the fleet of 600 specialised reefer ships greater than 100,000 cubic feet has increased to 24 years - despite continued heavy scrapping during the past 12 months. Star Reefers has the youngest fleet among the major operators (with an average age of 14 years), while Baltic Reefers has the oldest with an average age of 28 years.

The first half of 2013 appeared to herald the start of a long awaited upturn for the specialised reefer industry. Time charter rates improved, scrapping had shrunk the fleet to more manageable levels and the containership industry finally seemed to understand that life was not all about market share.

Harding summarised the state of the market, saying, "The two modes of transport have experienced mixed fortunes. With the continued shrinking of the specialised reefer fleet, it is unavoidable that increased cargo volumes, no matter how small, will have to be shipped by reefer container vessels. The market share between the two modes continues to move in favour of the containership and, with the specialised reefer orderbook remaining at zero (at least for the time being), it is inevitable that this trend will continue.

"The containership mode is forecast to provide in excess of 94 percent of overall reefer tonnage within the next few years. However, the specialised reefer industry is focused purely on refrigerated cargoes and is able to optimise cargo carriage and voyage times - thereby providing a higher percentage of annualised cargo capacity than the figures might otherwise suggest. Thus, the statistics continue to demonstrate that cargo volumes can be accommodated over both modes of transport. Forward utilisation levels for specialised reefer ships are forecast to remain stable, although total cargo tonnes carried are forecast to reduce year-on-year as the fleet shrinks."

Source: Drewry Maritime Research