AN estimated 101.1 million tonnes of fresh produce was transported in conventional reefer ships and reefer containers in 2014, according to Dynamo’s annual reefer market report.
Seventy four per cent of the total was transported in containers, highlighting that conventional reefer ships are continuing to lose market share to container operators, as shown by The Reefer Analysis: Market Structure, Conventional, Containers report, by Franz Wails.
And this trend is expected to continue in the years to come. A decade ago half of total fresh produce volumes were transported in containers, rising to 62 per cent in 2009.
Mr Wails said that one of the contributory factors behind the development is that fruit trades are increasingly sacrificing their conventional services in exchange for slots on container services, reported Lloyd's Loading List.
This development began in 2011; and Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC) has been particularly successful in attracting fruit growers.
This year No boa axed its Ecuadorian Line service between Ecuador, the US east coast and north Europe for slots on MSC services while Chiquita will provide reefer cargo for a new Central America east coast US MSC service.
As a result of the switch from conventional to containers, the report also pointed out that reefer operators are looking to become hybrid operators offering both types of ship.
The main development on this front was world's largest reefer ship operator Seatrade Reefer Chartering's decision in July to acquire two geared 2,200 TEU box ships due for delivery in 2016.
"Seatrade has emphasized that this order was the start of a larger newbuilding programme involving similar reefer heavy box ships, perhaps even up to 20 units, as the end of the year rumour goes," the Dynamar report said.
"If the latter is correct, there may also be truth in the story that, at the same time, the company is to order 20 smaller specialised conventional reefer units, mainly for the deep frozen carriage of fish and meat."
In terms of the orderbook, just one conventional reefer ship is currently being built: a 200,000 cubic foot vessel for Toei Reefer Line for delivery in mid-2015. It will be the first new reefer vessel handed over since October 2011.
As a result of the lack of new orders and an average age of the existing fleet of 24 years, Mr Waal expects the conventional fleet to decline by 60 per cent to 140 vessels by 2025, should no new conventional reefers be built on any substantial scale.
In contrast, the number of reefer containers continues to increase rapidly.
Last year, the number of reefer boxes increased by five per cent year on year to reach 2.5 million TEU, most of which are 40-foot high cube containers.
Source : HKSG.