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Despite the Name, the Refrigerated Container Market is Red Hot, Spurring Industry Moves

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Despite the Name, the Refrigerated Container Market is Red Hot, Spurring Industry Moves

The global shipping containers market is poised to experience significant market valuation and robust growth through 2025, according to industry research published last year. Sorry about the temperature mix you are about to withstand, but the hottest segment of that market in that study was refrigerated containers, a.k.a. reefer.

Be they 20-foot, 40-foot or even higher cubes, “reefer containers are projected to be the fastest-growing segment in the product type category during the forecast period,” which was 2017-2025 for Persistence Market Research. (See https://www.persistencemarketresearch.com/market-research/shipping-containers-market.asp.)

The Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for the period is forecast by PMR to be 10.2 percent for the reefer segment, with the 20- and 40-foot sub segments expected to push the positive growth. It’s interesting to note that this factoid was part of a report that more prominently played up the predicted 8.6 percent CAGR for the dry container segment.

That said (or, more accurately, written), it is telling that PMR expects the overall container market to register a “robust” CAGR of 8.3 percent throughout the eight-year period, even with the forecast of a slowing global economy in 2020.

“The growth of the shipping containers at a global level is pushed by the growth in the economy, rising seaborne trade, increasing demand for highly efficient and superior capacity shipping containers, growth in sales of specialized shipping containers by department of defense and rising trend of increasing use of remote container management (RCM) solutions,” PMR finds.

There have been anecdotal indications of the reefer market’s continued growth. Universal Africa Lines (UAL), a conventional ocean transportation carrier that specializes in handling project cargo, breakbulk and containers, boasts a fleet of more than 4,000 containers including reefers, high cubes, open tops and flat racks with the ability to provide a multitude of shipping options including door-to-door service. Last summer, UAL announced its call at Port of Houston’s City Docks as part of its U.S. Gulf/Mexico to West Africa liner service.

Port of Houston was attractive to UAL due to the available dedicated laydown area for project cargoes and berth availability, both of which provided added flexibility to the carrier’s multipurpose fleet.

Cogoport, a leading digital freight logistics business in India, announced in July 2019 the launch of reefer cargo services to and from destinations around the globe. “We are meeting significant demand for reefer exports to North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and to those importing refrigerated cargoes–enabling SME [small-to-medium enterprise] shippers all over India to deliver better productivity, service and profitability when moving their perishable cargoes,” said Cogoport CEO and founder Purnendu Shekhar at the time.

India has experienced “rapid and sustained growth in refrigerated exports during the past decade with commodities like fish, vegetables, fruit and nuts, meat, pharmaceuticals and chemicals driving demand for reefer import and export services,” explained Shekhar’s company in a press release.

“We have had a great experience working with Cogoport, moving onions to different corners of the world–saving us time and budget,” says Ankit Begwani, CEO and founder of BegwaniGlobal. “Like many other SMEs, we are also seeing huge demand for shipping of perishable cargoes, not least for fruit and vegetable exports to Malaysia and Dubai. This requires high operational output, optimization of shipments and customer satisfaction for delivering goods on time. Every cent matters to every SME business, and Cogoport has demonstrated that it can help deliver that value with better rates, better margins and better visibility.”

The reefer demand is not going one way in India, where the rise of the middle class has created a greater desire for refrigerated imports, particularly from Germany, South Korea and Russia, according to the advisory from Cogoport, which is headquartered in Mumbai and has offices in Hong Kong and the Netherlands.

Perhaps the greatest indication of reefer’s rise comes in the form of technological advances that different industry players seem to announce almost daily.

Miramar, Florida-based Wireless Maritime Services (WMS), the largest wireless network operator at sea, and Globe Tracker, the fastest growing provider of global supply chain IoT visibility for cold-chain, announced their partnership in November to bring real-time reefer monitoring to Seaboard Marine, the largest marine cargo shipping line in Central, South America and the Caribbean.

Under the multi-year, multi-ship agreement, Seaboard Marine becomes the world’s first container ocean line to implement a truly portable, fully 24/7 monitored, 4G LTE based private cellular and integrated satellite communication network for containers on vessels. The innovation and expertise from WMS and Denmark-based Globe Tracker—whose North American headquarters are in Sarasota, Florida—results in “a novel vessel network that is seamless, interoperable, and provides end-to-end enhanced visibility and real-time connectivity, both in the cloud and on the vessel at sea,” according to the companies.

They add that Seaboard Marine also becomes the world’s first ocean line to implement full IoT visibility across their fleet of intermodal assets, including reefers, gensets, chassis and vessels—all on a single integrated easy to use platform.

“By IoT equipping our Controlled Atmosphere (CA) reefer fleet and other critical assets, we are well-positioned to provide more responsive cold chain services for our trade lanes, which facilitates complex processes such as USDA cold treatment,” noted Seaboard Marine Vice President Piero Buitano in the announcement.

“The vessel system also provides real-time alerts to crew technicians, so problems can be quickly detected and corrected, if necessary, thereby increasing temperature compliance,” added Frederick Urbina, Seaboard’s Refrigerated Services manager.

Noted Pramod Arora, WMS president and CEO, of Seaboard Marine: “They have been a valuable partner in pushing us to innovate first-to-market solutions that we are now deploying within their fleet. We look forward to continuing to partner with Seaboard Marine for future innovations.”

Globe Tracker had already started the partnering mojo in September, when it announced having teamed with Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based SeaCube Containers, a global leader in refrigerated shipping containers and gensets, to provide IoT-enabled gensets for Ocean Network Express (ONE), the sixth-largest shipping line in the world.

The cutting-edge GT technology provides cellular communication of operational parameters from gensets, including fuel level, battery voltage, events and alarms and even remote shut-off capability for certain genset brands.

“The growing demand for greater tracking, transparency, security, diagnostics and asset fleet management using smart technology will continue to be a key driver for leased solutions,” said Greg Tuthill, chief commercial officer at SeaCube, in the joint announcement. “By partnering with Globe Tracker, we will continue to enhance our leading-edge technology solutions and expand our commitment to the intermodal industry by providing smart asset technology leased products.”

John Harnett, senior director Marine and Intermodal at Globe Tracker, added he was pleased to be working with SeaCube “in providing this best-in-class genset solution to ONE. In genset telematics, we are the only provider integrated into the micro-controller of two out of the three leading brands in North America. This provides ONE with the most robust amount of data and assists in setting maintenance intervals, reducing maintenance costs, extending asset life, monitoring fuel consumption and having full operational visibility of their genset assets.”

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida-based Carrier Transicold, which is under the umbrella of Farmington, Connecticut’s United Technologies Corp., used the Nov. 5-7  Intermodal Europe 2019 in Hamburg, Germany, to unveil its new TripLINK digital tool that is designed to make shipping perishables simple, transparent and reliable worldwide.

The tool digitally connects customers to updates on their assets, including vital cargo health information. TripLINK software securely gathers and analyzes machine and cargo-health data that it wirelessly obtains from telematics hardware in the refrigerated container and the micro controller.

“Our aim in unveiling these new digital solutions is to bring to our customers convenience, visibility and actionable intelligence, ultimately to derive more savings for them,” said Kartik Kumar, vice president & general manager, Carrier Global Container Refrigeration. “At Carrier, the future is now. Through leveraging the latest cutting-edge technology, especially on the digital front, we provide our customers practical solutions they only once dreamed possible.”

Also part of a new suite of digital solutions is the Container eCommerce portal, which began supporting customers in Southeast Asia in mid-November. The portal put on view Carrier Transicold’s full catalog of refrigerated container unit parts and allowed orders to be placed easily.

Also on display in Germany was Carrier’s new Micro-Link 5 controller, which is billed as the industry’s first wireless connectivity enabled refrigerated container unit controller that is also equipped with advanced diagnostics, allowing service technicians to save time and money by reducing container moves and the need to restack units to retrieve critical data or conduct troubleshooting. And a new DataLINE Connect mobile app allows customers to work directly with a refrigerated unit equipped to receive data via a smartphone or tablet.

Staying in Europe, but traveling back the previous month to October 2019, CEVA Logistics opened a new integrated, end-to-end cold chain facility at DP World London Gateway in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, UK.

More than 50 customers, including representatives of French container transportation and shipping company CMA CGM, attended the unveiling of The Chill Hub, which CEVA describes as a state-of-the-art facility with dedicated areas for handling pharmaceuticals, fresh and frozen produce, beverage products and flowers as well as other goods requiring temperature specific handling and storage.

The location is considered strategic because a deep-sea port is on the same site as the logistics park where The Chill Hub rests. London Gateway, which has links to more than 110 ports in 60 different countries, is considered the UK’s No. 1 reefer hub.

“With its excellent road and rail connections, our best in class warehouse management systems and direct port access, the Chill Hub is a powerful demonstration of the synergies between CEVA Logistics and CMA CGM,” said Nicolas Sartini, CEO of Baar, Switzerland-based CEVA Logistics, which has offices worldwide, including all over North America.

“This state-of-the-art facility will enable us to offer a unique value proposition to our shipper customers,” Sartini continued, “providing a faster delivery of goods through an energy-efficient building. We can also give full visibility and control of the entire inbound operation through The Chill Hub.”

CargoSmart Limited—which leverages technologies including artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain, as well as a deep understanding of ocean shipping for its transportation and logistics clients—announced in November its new Connected Reefer Solution. The one-stop, AI and IoT-enabled reefer cargo management system for ocean carriers and shippers features end-to-end information transparency, including enhanced reefer container Pre-Trip Inspection (PTI) support, real-time container status monitoring updates, and predictive cargo arrival status.

“CargoSmart Connected Reefer Solution provides users with a one-stop, hassle-free solution that seamlessly integrates IoT-enabled containers with cloud-based monitoring software and APIs [application programming interfaces],” said Lionel Louie, CargoSmart’s chief commercial officer, in the announcement. “With the cutting-edge technologies and the vast volume of data collected, CargoSmart Connected Reefer Solution brings an unprecedented level of real-time cargo status visibility, empowers more accurate and responsive planning, and significantly drives down operation costs for carriers and shippers.”

Louie was not blowing smoke. CargoSmart reefer management was the winner of the Lloyd’s List 2019 “Excellence in Supply Chain Management” Asia Pacific and the 2019 TIBCO Trailblazer Visionary awards. And the solution received this praise from Li Dong, general manager of COSCO Shipping’s Equipment Management Center: “In addition to heightened visibility to reefer cargo status, COSCO Shipping replaced manual PTI with AI-enabled PTI, bringing significant enhancements in cost-efficiency savings as well as reefer management capabilities.”