Reefer containers: the new logistics bubble

The Chiquita company has decided to exclusively use reefer containers for the maritime transport of its merchandise, which raises the question of whether there is currently a shortage of this type of containers at the logistic level as their popularity has increased more than the stock number, according to Cool Logistics Global. Chiquita's decision to use this type of container is supported by the recent inauguration of the Moin Container Terminal (TCM) of APM Terminals in Costa Rica, which aims at exporting fruit with 6,000 reefer connections.

The Chiquita subsidiary, Great White Fleet, has five reefer vessels to transport bananas from the Port of Moin in Costa Rica to the Dutch Port of Vlissingen, considered the new hub of Northern Europe.

Dole is currently one of the few ship operators that still uses conventional reefer vessels on some of their trade routes, even though it's uncertain that this type of vessels will continue operating in the short term as merchandise ships for fresh products on routes to Europe.

Last year in Cool Logistics Global, in Antwerp, Maersk Line and other players predicted that the IMO 2020 regulation would accelerate the disappearance of older conventional vessels, since it will simply not be economical to adapt scrubbers or they will operate with the most expensive low sulfur fuel oil (LSFO). Inspections on conventional reefer vessels tend to take place during the summer months (northern hemisphere), during the traditional off-season for these vessels, so this could be starting at a critical moment.

As predicted at Cool Logistics Global 2017 in Algeciras, there were indications that the shortage of reefer containers worsened in 2018. This proved to be largely correct, since container leasing operators did not fill the gap in the market. Apparently, this was because the rates did not prove to be attractive enough.

The bubble created around these containers has led to reports of poor quality and dirty reefer containers that had been sent to shippers to be loaded in South Africa in the last year.

Given the alternatives of using old containers or simply not using them, the answer is clear, especially when there are more lucrative reefer cargoes on the market, such as, for example, pharmaceutical products.

One thing seems obvious to Cool Logistics Global: shippers will have to pay more for transportation in the future.



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