World’s largest reefer ship to boost fruits exports
Exports of New Zealand kiwifruit and South African citrus fruits to Europe have been boosted by the commissioning of the world's largest reefer vessel.
In the second quarter of 2021, the world’s largest specialised reefer ship (189.9m long and 30.7m wide) is expected to carry its first shipment of produce to the European market. Built in 2021 by Cool Carriers, the MV Cool Eagle is one of a series of five ships that are the largest reefer vessels in the world. With a capacity of 25,6251 m3, the “MV Cool Eagle” can carry about 6,000 pallets of fruits in 342 reefer containers on deck, with 7,200 pallets below deck. This equates to 1.2 million cartons of fruits. [1, 2]
Unlike container ships that transport individual refrigerated containers, specialised reefer ships have insulated holds that can be adjusted depending on the type of cargo being shipped. For its first shipment, the cargo aboard the MV Cool Eagle includes kiwifruits from New Zealand as well as citrus from South Africa. [3, 4]
According to the South African Citrus Growers Association, there was a 33% increase in citrus shipments on specialised reefer vessels in 2020. Growers expect to export a record-breaking 163 million cartons of citrus during the 2021 export season. Moreover, citrus exports are expected to grow by a further 500,000 tonnes over the next three to five years. It is therefore critical that the entire logistics chain is able to support this growth. 
According to a World Bank assessment report, South Africa’s container terminals are among the most inefficient in the world. As a result, traditional container ships take longer to clear the country’s ports than reefer ships. Reefer ships typically arrive faster at export markets in Europe and therefore guarantee better quality fruits. 
Overall, exporters are affected by the current global shortage of shipping containers, primarily caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, a variety of transport solutions are needed.