Reefer Container Demand To Surge As Vaccine Distribution Piles Up

As one after another coronavirus vaccines get authorized and approved for usage, the global supply chains and transport systems are up on their toes to distribute them.

Reefers for Vaccine Distribution

While air freight will be affected the most in this global phenomenon, shipping will not be completely untouched. In fact, much of the transport will be happening through cargo ships and marine reefers will see an astronomical surge in demand. Experts anticipate the demand to exceed 60,000 containers from different countries in the next 2-3 years.

As many as 60,000 reefers are needed to distribute the new covid vaccines across the globe for the next 2 – 3 years.

However, apprehensions remain whether new reefer containers will enter the market for this or existing reefers that are being used to ship pharma products and perishables would be used. In case the latter occurs a new crisis is bound to happen.

reefer ship

At present, the production location of the covid vaccines are in India, China, France, UK, US, Switzerland, Russia, Japan and Brazil

Reefer Containers Can Do It

The shipping giant Maersk who have already signed up for the vaccine distribution deal pointed out that although the vaccine requires to be stored at -80°C, the upstream distribution requirements is likely to be as low as -20°C when the vaccine reaches a stable stage for distribution. The vaccine downstream distribution is likely to be done at 2°C to 8°C which can be easily maintained by ocean reefer containers which have a temperature range of -35°C to +25°C.

Maersk also thinks that shipping’s good track record of pharma products transportations at 2°C to 8°C will lead them to play a crucial role in vaccine distribution.

Challenging To Fulfill Reefer Demand

The estimated 60,000 reefers needed for vaccine distribution might jump up if containers are used as “pop up cold storages” in absence of adequate warehouse facilities, specially in underdeveloped regions.

According to the International Clearing and Shipping Agency, this would be a major challenge as every country in the world will face the same demand. Distributing perishables and pharma at the same time will be a challenge, said G Raghu Shankar of International Clearing and Shipping Agency

The demand and requirement of reefer containers will depend on vaccine storing and shipping temperatures. Another aspect is the material used for making the containers for shipping pharma products.

Shippers Need To Build Pharma Reefers

Pharma products are shipped in special containers which are made of different materials manufactured separately, says
Satish Lakkaraju, Chief Commercial Officer of Agility Logistics Pvt Ltd, which has global pharma companies as its clients.

According to Lakkaraju there’s already a booming demand for shipping pharma.
“We have always given priority to pharma over other products and if needed we will have to do the same for prioritising vaccines,” he said.

The company is already working towards making a blueprint for the next few months by charting a detailed roadmap in order to provide a suitable supply chain to its customers

“It is very important that shippers who are shipping other commodities continue to ship now and build inventory wherever possible to avoid stock outs,” he added.


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