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Strong growth in trade, despite a weakening specialised reefer fleet

Worldwide perishable reefer trade increased by 54.5 million tonnes between 2001 and 2011 at a combined annual growth rate of 3.9%, with seaborne trade reaching almost 91 million tonnes in 2011. The perishable reefer trade remains resilient to adverse economic conditions and future growth in cargo volumes is inevitable.

Seaborne perishable reefer trade has grown to total 90.9 million tonnes in 2011. In terms of tonnage, the highest growth has been in the meat category which grew from 21.4 million tonnes in 2001 to 35.9 million tonnes in 2011. The worldwide trade of bananas/plantains has grown from 13.2 million tonnes in 2001 to 15.7 million tonnes. Following three successive years of declining volume the banana trade increased by almost 10% in 2011.

Drewry Maritime Research forecasts continued growth in perishable reefer cargo for 2012. Beyond that, population growth levels and GDP levels will see trade increase at an average rate of over 4% a year to 2016.

It is however not all good news for the market. The specialised reefer fleet continues its inexorable decline with a reduction of 234 vessels and 81 million cubic feet in the last ten years alone. During 2010 and 2011 a total of 77 vessels (28.2 million cubic feet) were scrapped. As of mid-2012 a further 42 vessels have been added to that list and by year end it is forecasted that scrapping levels will have exceeded the record levels set in 1993 and 1999. Meanwhile the orderbook is currently empty for the specialised reefer fleet.

In contrast to this over 500 containerships are yet to be delivered, whilst the refrigerated container box fleet growth hit a record 13% during 2011 and ended the year at 2,048,00 teu. This was almost double the 6.6% increase achieved in 2010 and is, in fact, one of the highest rates of annual growth ever reported for the reefer box sector.

The two fleets are moving in opposite directions and it is impossible to see this changing significantly but it may not be all bad news for the specialised reefer industry. The containership operators are becoming more vocal in their need to increase reefer rates. As supply and demand shifts, time charter rates will once again start to increase. Survival in the specialised reefer industry appears to be achievable for the moment, based on its distinct advantages, expertise and service.

Source: Reefer Shipping Market Review and Forecast 2012/13 published by Drewry Maritime Research in Oct 2012.

For more information:
Simon Raper
Drewry Maritime Research
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)20 7538 0191
Fax: +44 (0)20 7987 9396

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