In most trade lanes, countries that import refrigerated cargo, like meats and fruits, often do not export the same amount of refrigerated cargo. This leaves the ocean carriers in a conundrum – how to get the refrigerated containers (reefers) back to where they are needed. The cost of re-positioning empty containers is significant cost without any offsetting revenues.
China is a net importer of reefer cargo from the Americas, leaving thousands of reefers that need to find their way back. There is already an imbalance in trade with China, meaning carriers certainly do not want to load their ships with empty reefer containers rather than full revenue-generating containers. The solution is the non-operating reefer containers (NOR). The carriers sell these containers at a discounted rate, as compared to a standard dry container, to importers already shipping in these lanes. Thus, the repositioning generates revenue.
However, there are four important points to consider before jumping into NOR imports and to determine whether the extra cost and headaches are worth the savings.
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