Monday, February 11, 2019

The future of Reefer Ships

New reefer containers at Halterm, ready to go into service for Tropical Shipping.

Back in April 2015 I posted a series on refrigerated cargo ships, featuring some of the attractive, generally white painted, ships that used to call in Halifax. See
They are rarely seen here now because most container ships can carry refrigerated and temperature controlled containers that can be sent anywhere that the regular trade routes serve.

A recent article by Dynamar NV, a shipping consultancy, reports on the precipitous decline in refrigerated cargo ships and their possible demise. They state that there was a growth of 5% in refrigerated container traffic in 2018, representing a total of 116 mn TEUs.

The 1962-built Cap San Diego preserved in Hamburg, may soon join the ranks of the square rigger behind it, as a relic of an extinct species.

They state that pure reefer ships carry only about 18% of reefer cargo - the rest is carried on container ships, in 2.9mn TEUs of refrigerated containers. (Most are 40 foot high cube, so the total number of boxes is well under 2mn ).In 2018 there were 120,000 TEUs of new refrigerated boxes built, a 12% growth over 2017.

There are apparently only 574 sizable conventional refrigerated cargo ships left in the world (that is, ships with more than 100,000 cu ft of capacity). They predict a reefer fleet of  fewer than 310 ships by 2030.

Salén's Rio was a fine example of the reefer ship. Built in 1960, it was broken up in 1983. Powered by steam turbine machinery, it was a relatively slow ship, capable of 19 knots.

Adding to the pressure of refrigerated containers are stringent fuel emissions standards that will come into force in 2020. As reefer ships were highly capital intensive to build, they were intended to last a long time, but because of their age are not likely to justify the fitting of scrubbers or conversion to lighter fuels. They will likely head for the scrappers instead.

Another research organization reported that in 2017 there were about 15,795  dry cargo ships (not including bulk  carriers) in the world, and around 5,000 container ships. Dedicated reefer ships then are but a tiny part of the world's shipping inventory. 
(Just to complete that inventory they reported 11,592 bulk carriers, 7,183 crude and product tankers, and 5,000 chemical tankers.)

 Hamburg-Sud's Polar Paraguay, built in 1969 and broken up in 1993 cruised at 23.5 knots.
Pier 23 was the favoured berth in Halifax.

Some traditional refrigerated cargo ship owners have switched to container ships, or to ships that carry refrigerated cargo in temperature controlled holds and refrigerated containers in holds and on deck.

Emerald was built in Japan in 2000 and is a much more prosaic looking ship, but capable of a good turn of speed, doing 21 knots. It is classed as a refrigerated cargo ship-equipped to carry containers.

With the large numbers of refrigerated containers passing through Halifax, do not expect to see any reefer ships here any time soon.

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