Analysts at Dynamar expect conventional reefer ships to become an “endangered species” in a new report. An ageing fleet, new IMO environmental regulations and encroaching volumes now shipped on container vessels have all transpired to make the reefer vessel a ship type on the wane.
Last year, seaborne transport of fresh produce carried in both conventional reefer ships and refrigerated containers was estimated to have grown by around 5% to 116m tons
Until the turn of the century, conventional reefer ships were the main fresh produce carriers. That has fallen, considerably, and it was just 18% in 2017, a figure that is set to slide further, in no small part thanks to next year’s start of the IMO sulphur cap on shipping fuel.
“Fuel costs make up a larger part of the costs for conventional reefer operators. Scrubbers or LNG are not an option for elderly ships because the costs are just too great. For those ship operators struggling to stay afloat, some may decide to scrap some of their oldest ships, or even exit the industry altogether,” the Dynmar report posited.
At the end of last year, the world maritime container reefer box fleet totalled 2.9m teu, comprised of predominantly 40’ high-cubes. Production in 2018 was projected to reach 130,000 teu, which is an approximate growth of 12% compared to the year before. For 2019, production is predicted to rise, but not by much. Many of the world’s top containerlines placed very sizeable orders for reefer containers over the past 12 months.
By contrast, using data from July 1 last year, there were 574 conventional reefer ships larger than 100,000 cu ft in service with a combined capacity of 183.9m cu ft. The vessels have an approximate total container capacity of 51,700 teu, equating to less than 2% of the liner reefer fleet.
Dynmar went on to highlight how liners have over the past couple of years been able to extract far better freight rates for their reefer shipments compared to traditional reefer operators.
Concluding, the Dutch analysts stated: “There is no room for nostalgia and the decline in the conventional reefer fleet persists.”
Dynamar predicted the conventional reefer fleet to fall to around 310 ships, equivalent to 100m cu ft, by 2030.