Containerlines set to control 85% of the reefer market by 2021

Containerships are set to control 85% of the reefer market by 2021, up from the current 79%, according to a report published by British consultants Drewry.

By 2021, seaborne reefer cargo will exceed 134m tonnes – increasing by an average of 2.8% per annum, according to Drewry’s report.

Despite future seaborne cargo growth levels being lower than those of the last decade (3.3%), such increases will have a significant effect on containerlines with reefer capacity, Drewry posited.

With almost 400 containerships with reefer capacity yet to be delivered, and possibly more still to be confirmed, Drewry looked at the effect this will have not only on overall cargo tonnes carried, but also on capacity utilisation. Based on the confirmed orderbook, despite significant increases in reefer (container) capacity, reefer utilisation will remain broadly stable as a result of the increased seaborne cargo volumes and rising market share for the reefer containership mode, the consultants maintained.

On the other hand, Drewry predicted that with a reducing specialised reefer fleet, not only will this mode see its cargo volumes decrease, but also its market share will reduce year-on-year.

Specialised reefer ships currently provide around 5% of overall reefer capacity yet carry almost 21% of total seaborne perishable reefer cargo.

“Inevitably, although still carrying a disproportionate volume of cargo, both cargo tonnes and market share are set to fall for this mode,” Drewry reported.

Drewry’s report also warned about a potential lack of reefer container equipment.

“A lack of recent investment has already led to shortages in Europe and Brazil during the second quarter of this year, a situation that is likely to repeat itself. Although carrier consolidation may result in an improvement in container utilisation and efficiency, the lack of container equipment orders placed in 2017 is a concern,” Drewry reported.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Greetings they can have all the reefer loads they want I’ll be out of this business by then.Thank you yahwah

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