Massive demand seen for marine reefer containers to ship Covid-19 vaccine

TE Raja Simhan Chennai | Updated on December 07, 2020

In next 2-3 years, demand for over 60,000 containers seen from across countries

While the air mode of transport will be the most preferred for Covid-19 vaccine distribution globally due to the urgency, there is going to be huge demand for marine reefer containers to transport the vaccine. It is estimated that over 60,000 reefer containers would be required for distribution of the vaccine over a period of two to three years.

At present, reefer containers are used to transport pharma products and perishables. There is no clear picture on whether a significant number of the existing reefer containers will be diverted to distribute the vaccine or new containers will enter the market to meet the likely surge in demand. The initial indicated production locations of the vaccine will be India, China, France, UK, Switzerland, Russia, Japan and Brazil and the US.

Maersk, a global shipping line, said that the early-stage vaccines may require transportation at -80°C. These volumes are usually at trial quantities and early stages. They are transported by air freight due to the ‘speed to market’ requirement. Once the vaccine is developed and reaches a stable stage for distribution some of the upstream distribution requirements might be at -20°C. However, most downstream distribution is done at 2°C to 8°C. Ocean reefer containers can maintain temperatures from -35°C to +25°C, and there is a good track record in the ocean industry of transporting pharma products at 2°C to 8°C.

Also read: Mumbai airport preparing team to manage Covid-19 vaccine cargo: Report

Following the vaccine’s standard packaging and distribution, one can estimate the total volume that the Covid-19 vaccine will take for distribution. Assuming all vaccines will get distributed in reefer containers, the initial estimate will be that there will be a need for just above 60.000 reefer containers in total, over a period of two to three years.

This number may increase significantly if reefer containers are used for “pop up cold storages” as there is a foreseen lack of warehousing capacity for the Covid-19 vaccine, especially in less developed geographies, the shipping major said.

G Raghu Shankar of International Clearing and Shipping Agency said that there will be a global requirement and every country will be having similar demand. Hence, it will be a major challenge. Other commodities are mostly perishables and pharma will also have a difficult time.

Requirement of ocean reefer containers will depend on various factors, such as the temperature at which the vaccines will be stored or shipped. The containers that are used for storing pharma products are manufactured separately and are generally not the same that are used for shipping, said Satish Lakkaraju, Chief Commercial Officer, Agility Logistics Pvt Ltd, which has global pharma companies as its clients.

Also read: UNICEF lays plans to deliver Covid-19 vaccine to 92 low-income countries

“The reefer containers used for shipping pharma are already in high demand. We have always given priority to pharma over other products and if the need arises, we have to prioritise vaccines and the same will be done,” he added.

“We are already working with our customers to get a forecast for the next few months and start planning to provide a suitable supply chain so that there is no disruption. It is very important that shippers who are shipping other commodities to continue to ship now and build inventory wherever possible to avoid stock outs,” he said.

Published on December 07, 2020

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor