Reefer Shipping 4.0 from China to Africa

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The term 'reefer' is used in shipping to refer to refrigerated ships and refrigerated shipping containers that transport perishable commodities by sea.

Temperature-controlled transportation is used for perishables such as fruit, meat, fish, vegetables, and dairy products.

A reefer ship is a containership that exclusively carries refrigerated containers that was the predominant mode of transporting goods in controlled conditions before the advent of reefer containers.

But strong demand for fresh foods and other perishables that require refrigerated transportation is encouraging news for the global reefer market in 2018. However, the otherwise rosy outlook is muddied by logistics challenges that threaten to drive up prices and, in some cases, make it more difficult to maintain optimum conditions for time-sensitive products with limited shelf life.

Trade is one thing, seaborne transport of fresh produce another. The latter, in both conventional reefer ships and refrigerated boxes, is estimated to have reached 110 million tons last year. One-hundred-ten million tons equals some 9,100 laden conventional reefer ships of 500,000-cft average, or 3.71 million full 40’ High Cube reefer containers. The share of the overall maritime transport of fresh produce of the world seaborne trade of dry cargoes of all kinds is estimated at just below 4%.

Part of the top ten are Africa Express Line (Compagnie Fruitière), Dole Ocean Cargo Express (Dole) and Network Shipping (Del Monte). 

“Disappearing reefer ships are the biggest change in 40 years of fruit import”

Looking back on 40 years of SFI, he says the disappearance of reefer ships is one of the biggest changes for importers. “Back when fruit still arrived per reefer, you worked with other large importers. As a result of containerisation, every wholesaler can now import a container of fruit,

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China – Russia, China – EU Reefer trade 4.0

DB Schenker is ramping up its cold chain operations in China, as fresh food demand soars across the country. 

Schenker is developing its integrated logistics solutions in China, which currently comprise domestic trucking; contract logistics for temperature-controlled warehousing; air and rail exports to Russia and Eastern Europe; and imports from Australia, North America and Europe.

China’s fresh fruit import volumes have grown 20% year-on-year since 2014 and meat imports reached record levels last year, with Australia, Brazil and Uruguay the leading suppliers.

Rail freight is particularly convenient for the transport of perishables as the use of reefer containers is common. In addition, our rail routes run along the new Silk Road from China to Europe, Russia and the CIS countries – China’s focus countries for perishable trade,” said Mr Sørensen. 

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Chinese exporter building DC in Poland

While European exporters are eagerly looking at the enormous potential of the Chinese market, Henry Wang, manager of Jiutai Modern Agriculture, is looking towards Europe with a similar longing. The Chinese company successfully exported tangelos and pomelos to Poland, but it wants to expand this trade flow.

Genoa – Savona, Reefer Shipping 4.0

WITH established lines and dedicated facilities like terminals and warehouses, the ports of the Western Ligurian Sea have traditionally handled fruit and vegetable traffic, both in Savona and Genoa. The two ports have experienced a season of transformation in the cold maritime transport market, with increasing volumes of goods transitioning from refrigerated ships

The first ship from the Hamburg Sud subsidiary’s fleet, which departed from Latin America, arrived at the Ligurian port on 21 January, where it called at the old reefer terminal The service route is Cartagena, Puerto Moin, Manzanillo, Vado Ligure, Livorno, Civitavecchia, Naples, Salerno, Algeciras, and Cartagena again.

Reefer containers in Africa

The developments on the market are slower in affecting the African routes. “We have noticed Africa is slower to evolve regarding innovations, but that is logical. Labour costs are much cheaper there, and prices more attractive,” Peter explains. That can also be seen at other levels. European ports are equipped to unload boats using cranes, but the ship’s cranes are needed to move the shipment to the quay in African ports.

For many products, Latin America is the market leader in production. These countries are lord and master on the market, especially for bananas. Only a small number of companies specialise in the import from Africa. Every week, a ship with bananas from Africa docks at the Vrasenedok in Antwerp.

In recent months, there were quite a few reports on the traffic congestion on the ring road of Antwerp. 

Shipping Fresh 4.0 from Europe to West Africa?

Shipping line Africa Express Line (AEL) has announced that it is expanding its refrigerated container fleet with the addition of 500 Star Cool Integrated containers from Maersk Container Industry (MCI).

Africa Express Line aims for increased energy efficiency, effective cargo control and cold chain transparency with its new container investment

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'Active' controlled atmosphere brings fresh technology to the reefer

Daikin Reefer has invented new “active” controlled atmosphere (CA) technology it claims will revolutionise refrigerated shipping, allowing container lines to launch a fresh charge against air freight in the battle for perishable cargo 

Active CA helps prolong the shelf-life of produce such as asparagus, avocados, lettuces, cherries and blueberries. As a result, shipping lines will definitely be able to challenge airlines more for these cargoes 

Over the past two years, with shipping lines not making money, there’s been a big freeze on new reefer container investment and the containers have been getting older. In fact I would say that 2016 was the worst year for reefer manufacturers because it was the lowest for new equipment investment.

“With consolidation we will see rates stabilising, which will help shipping companies to be profitable and make better investments for the shipper.

“We’re already seeing it, reefer investment has shot up. Consolidation has stabilised things and everything has started picking up,” added Mr Goh.

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