According to an independent maritime research and consulting firm, Drewry, refrigerated container shipping is forecasted to outpace dry good container shipping by the end of 2021. They attribute this to the strength of the global food supply chain as well as the continued trade, both import and export of key food ingredients. Their report goes on to predict that reefer shipping will withstand current economic pressures, despite an expected tightening of the availability of refrigerated container equipment and will eventually reach over 150 million tons by the year 2024. This is an annual growth rate of close to 4 percent, faster than the expected growth in the dry cargo trade.
“Drewry expects the reefer trade to be more recession proof against the economic impacts of COVID-19,” said Drewry’s head of reefer shipping research Philip Gray. “And near term, it will continue to benefit from African swine fever induced protein demand into Asia. The continuing trade standoff between the US and China remains a threat to transpacific trade, but could provide opportunities on other routes through trade substitution, such as East Coast South America to Asia.”
Drewry also outlines numerous changes taking place in the shipments of reefer cargoes. Among these changes is the shift to fully cellular container ships, the dominance of bananas and fish as the biggest commodities carried in specialized reefer ships sailing the along the largest banana trade routes to Europe.