How will a reefer look 10 years from now?


Alan Robertson

A London container expert has predicted that complex demands from customers will result in simpler, more integrated designs of reefer containers.

Ten years ago, when Maersk Container Industry tested its first Star Cool, the guiding ambition was to reduce cost, weight and energy consumption by at least 30 percent.

Over the past decade, energy costs have soared, paving the way for the sale of 125,000 Star Cool units. Moreover, Star Cool’s unique features have inspired the industry with things like multi-speed fans and variable speed compressors.

So much for the past decade. What will a reefer look like 10 years from now? Integrated Reefer News asked Alan Robertson, director and owner of a London-based independent container project consultancy, to make a prediction.

“The reefer market will develop rapidly over the next 10 years. Reefer demand will be fuelled by global population growth and, by 2022, new specialised owners will emerge in addition to the existing leasing companies and shipping lines,” he says.

Mr Robertson foresees a more complex market. Customers will respond to this complexity by requiring more flexibility from their suppliers, the container manufacturers.

“The shipping lines will come under pressure to release more and more slots for shipper-operated equipment. This complexity will result in customer demand for more flexibility among reefer manufacturers and their designs,” he says.

“Customers will want to have some choice among suppliers, which means manufacturers today could do themselves a favour by making designs more flexible.”

Mr Robertson proclaims himself “a big fan of the integrated reefer concept” and draws a parallel to the way in which the automobile industry’s “integrated concept” came about.

“In the past, you could buy a car engine, but all the rest you would have to buy elsewhere. In the same way, I think this twostop shopping process in much of today’s reefer industry will be disappearing 10 years from now. A box and a machine are used as an integrated system – Why then buy it in two? Why pay two profit margins?” he says.

So Maersk Container Industry may have made one step into the future with its integrated box design. But 10 years from now, customers will want even more choice, from MCI as well.

“I predict there will be more choice in the market. Designs should allow for different components in an integrated design system. That goes for Maersk Container Industry, too,” Mr Robertson says.

The race for durability, energy efficiency and smart software will continue.

“Design development will enable boxes to last longer in service as they become stronger under integrated concepts. The software will become cleverer still and able to meet specific needs of individual customers who want to receive upgrades automatically from the manufacturer ‘over the air’,” Mr Robertson says.