One of the keynote sessions on the Logistics Hub stage saw Thomas Eskesen discuss the overall sustainability of perishable shipping from a global perspective

Thomas Eskesen FL 2024 Logistics Hub

Thomas Eskesen

Leading shipping expert Thomas Eskesen was on hand in Berlin to offer a global view of where the world is heading when it came to seafreight and the cold chain.

In his presentation, Eskesen noted that historically the reefer trade had been positive with 5 per cent compound growth year-on-year, and had been a great place to be an investor with ”a correlation between population growth, and ‘man’s got to eat’”.

However, he said that this correlation was “completely gone”, something he had seen for a second year in a row, with the data for 2023 (to the end of October) showing a global drop in volumes of 1 per cent for refrigerated cargo.

However, compared with the beginning of 2023, when general costs and shipping charges in the fruit segment were taking a heavy toll, things had picked up to a degree, Eskesen said.

”There is some light at the end of the tunnel from a fresh point of view,” he said. “We saw a big pick-up towards the end of the year, with up to ten per cent growth in fresh fruit moving around the world (by ocean) – a significant change to a year ago when we were here [in Berlin], when most of the farmers around the world were losing a tonne of money.

“We are seeing a normalisation of freight rates and this is no longer a constraint on people trading fruit,” Eskesen continued. ”So that is really good news and we are very pleased to see that.”

Red Sea crisis

Focusing on the current disruption in the Red Sea, he pointed out that some 120,000 tonnes of fresh fruit moved through the region each year.

While those volumes were not massive on their own, Eskesen said that the biggest impact of the Red Sea disruption would be the knock-on effect for worldwide trade.

“The journey for these big ships is now around ten days longer on a schedule basis each way,” he noted. ”So we are beginning to see a cascading effect.

“We are running out of boxes now on the east and west coasts of South America, Europe is getting harder, and the million dollar question is, when will this all finish?” Eskesen pondered. ”The safe advice is that we can expect normalisation six months after there is peace – and when that will be, no-one can predict.

“There’s a lot of pain there, a lot of people are losing money, and a lot of the shipping lines are rightfully saying that this is outside of their control.”

Looking closely at the characteristics of the reefer market, he outlined that while it was highly concentrated and controlled by the top six shipping lines, there were several new services emerging from the likes of ONE, Zim, Cosco and Hapag-Lloyd.

While they were hardly “new kids on the block”, he said it was great to see shippers supporting a broader spectrum that allowed for more competition.

Eskesen also highlighted how the end of the 2M Alliance, and the creation of the collaboration between Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, could have a major cascading affect on the business.

”At the end of the day, we still think there will be a tight supply of fruit, so if you have good fruit and you have decent shipping access you should be in a pretty good spot,” he added. There is reason to be more optimistic than a year ago.”

Click here to watch a full recording of the session at Fruit Logistica in Berlin (registration required)