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- Craig Stauffer
The global refrigerated perishables business has seen growth and expansion, in no small part because of the rise of the middle class and the reach of global carriers. Despite this expansion, freight rates until the COVID-19 pandemic had languished or even fallen for several years, rendering some of the largest commodity types, including proteins and bananas, to be marginally profitable for ocean carriers. Carriers reacted by reducing services; limiting investment in containers, gen-sets, and other equipment; and reducing terms on contracts for free time and detention and demurrage. Now, more than a year into historic capacity constraints that have caused an exponential increase in shipping rates, carriers are awash in profits the likes of which haven’t been seen in a decade or more, if ever. So how are carriers delivering on refrigerated shippers’ expectations, be it in service or equipment? Will carriers now invest in the reefer segment that makes a meaningful difference? And most importantly, what do refrigerated shippers truly want, and how much are they willing to pay for it — or, to the point, how much more can they afford to pay?