Conventional refrigerated ships continue to lose market share to container lines offering increased capacity for reefer boxes, according to a new analysis of the market by the Netherlands-based research and consulting firm Dynamar.
Traditional reefer ships carried half of all seaborne shipments of refrigerated cargoes as recently as 2000. Their share slipped below 30 percent in 2011, with actual volume below 2000 levels, and is certain to fall further as container lines add reefer capacity, the report said.
The largest conventional reefer ships have capacity of 700,000 cubic feet of hold capacity, in addition to container capacity on deck. Many container lines have vessels with several times that much capacity, Dynamar noted.
Amid perishable products demand that since 2000 has risen at an average annual rate of 6 percent, container lines are investing heavily in refrigerated equipment.
They also plan to charge more for it. Maersk recently led several other lines in announcing increases of $1,500 per 40-foot-equivalent unit for reefer cargo next year.
Maersk’s Safmax vessels, which have total capacity of 7,500 20-foot-equivalent units, have plugs for 1,700 reefer boxes, for nominal reefer capacity of 4.1 million cubic feet. Hamburg Sud’s 7,100-TEU Santa Clara vessels have 1,600 reefer plugs, for nominal capacity of 3.8 million cubic feet.
As of mid-2012, some 660 conventional reefer ships with at least 100,000 cubic feet of hold capacity were in operation, for a total of 216.7 million cubic feet of capacity. About half of these ships had additional container capacity estimated at 58,300 TEUs.
At the current pace and age of scrapping, assuming no substantial new orders, capacity of conventional reefer vessels will decline to 180 million cubic feet in 2015 and slightly more than 110 million cubic feet for just 370 ships by 2020, Dynamar said.
“Newbuilding orders would mitigate this decline marginally, but are unlikely to have a significant effect,” the report said. “The question is who is willing to invest substantial money in a market in decline.”
The 252-page report is available from Dynamar at www.dynamar.com.