Reefer container freight rates to outgun dry cargo rates in 2022

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Reefer container freight

Reefer container freight rates have risen sharply through 2021. Still, in contrast to dry cargo rates, they are forecast to rise further in 2022, driven by catch-up on North-South routes, according to Drewry’s recently published Reefer Shipping Annual Review and Forecast 2021/22 report.

Drewry’s Global Reefer Container Freight Rate Index, a weighted average of rates across the top 15 reefer intensive deepsea trade routes, rose 32% over the year to 2Q21, and by the end of 3Q21, these gains are expected to reach as much as 50% (see chart). But these advances are dwarfed by the recent surge in dry container freight rates, which have seen average container carrier unit revenues more than double over the same period.

The resurgence in reefer freight rates has not been uniform across all trades. Pricing recovery has been solid on the main East-West routes, where vessel capacity conditions have been noticeably tight. But North-South trades have generally seen less price inflation, particularly on export routes from WCSA, Central America and Southern Africa.

“In contrast to dry container freight rates, which are expected to decline in 2022 as trade conditions normalise, reefer container freight rates are forecast to continue rising as price inflation feeds into North-South routes when long term contract rates are renewed,” said Drewry’s head of reefer shipping research Philip Gray. “Most reefer cargo on these trades moves on long term contracts.”

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