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Shortage of reefer containers will continue this year

The perishable logistics chain could still be affected by the shortage of refrigerated containers of 2015, since 2018 is deemed to be another year of recovery for the sector. According to press reports, there is a scarce supply of equipment, which calls for greater intermodal access in order to relocate reefer containers more quickly from excess sites to places where they are needed.

Opinions are divided as to who is responsible for this limited stock. Some say that the consolidation of the industry is the culprit, but others point to "the financial woes of the industry," along with "the decisions of each shipping company regarding whether the equipment will be bought or leased," states Robert Sappio, CEO of SeaCube Containers, to JOC Newswire.

Therefore, it seems that the different investment philosophies and company strategies have shaped the playing field. Weak financial results affecting the industry as a whole have not helped either. In 2017, the first "good year" was recorded since 2010. There was a period in between when the results were weak, which forced ship owners to make drastic decisions about where and how to invest their capital, and little of that money was spent on reefer containers.

Drop of reefer containers
In the last decade, the combined industry produced more than 200 thousand TEU/year of refrigerated equipment. However, in 2015, trade in perishable goods fell by 2% worldwide, reaching close to 144.4 million tonnes. The shortage of reefer containers has also been the result of a change in the refrigerated cargo industry, which has been migrating from specialised ships to "normal" container vessels.

The market rebounded in 2016, with a growth of about 3.5%, and it is expected to continue growing, with a 4% increase in 2017. In 2016, barely 114,000 TEU of refrigerated capacity were produced, followed by 160,000-180,000 TEU in 2017. It is certainly an increase, although still far from those recorded in the last decade. The largest orders of refrigerated containers were made by Hapag-Lloyd, with 21,600 TEU/11,400 units, including 1,000 with controlled atmosphere technology, and MOL, with 4,200 TEU/2,200 units, including 2,000 with controlled atmosphere technology. China International Marine Containers (CIMC) and Maersk Container Industry (MCI) are the main manufacturers.

Shipping consolidation also played an important role. Big losses, and Hanjin's spectre, forced companies to scale up their operations through alliances, mergers and acquisitions. By April 2018, the world's fleet will belong to five major consolidated shipping companies, plus MSC and Evergreen, which operate independently. The seven owners handle a reefer container fleet of 1,780,000 TEUs, while the capacity is 3,320,000 TEUs; about 1.9 times the amount of containers available.

Source: MundoMaritimo

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