The container liner industry continues to increase its share of the refrigerated cargo market, according to London-based Drewry.
Drewry said its study, Reefer Shipping Market Review and Forecast 2013/14
, found the containership mode is forecast to provide in excess of 94 percent of overall reefer tonnage within the next few years. At the end of 2012 it was already in excess of 92 percent.
Kevin Harding, editor of the report, said there were almost 1 million 40-foot high-cube refrigerated containers at the end of last year and they make up over 90 percent of the overall reefer container fleet.
Drewry said there are 600 specialized reefer ships with more than 100,000 cubic feet of carrying capacity and their average age has increased to 24 years, despite continued heavy scrapping during the past year. It noted there is considerable variation in the age of fleets among reefer ship specialists, with Star Reefers having the youngest fleet among the major operators at an average age of 14 years, while Baltic Reefers' ships averaging 28 years.
It said the first half of this year "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 said the two modes of transport - container ships with reefer containers versus specialized breakbulk reefer ships - "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."
While specialized ships have only a small share of total reefer capacity, Harding said they make significantly more round voyages per year than the container fleet and they use their space solely for refrigerated cargo, while reefer containers are sometimes used to haul dry cargo.
Drewry said last year 92.4 million tons of reefer cargo (not counting liquids such fruit juices or frozen orange juice concentrate) moved by seaborne transport in 2012, 25.6 percent more than in 2002. Main commodities are bananas, fish and other seafood, citrus, deciduous fruit, poultry and meat.
The United States was responsible for about 15 percent of worldwide imports, Western Europe 38 percent, and Eastern Europe 13 percent.