Spike in reefer claims over pandemic: The Swedish Club

There was a peak in refrigerated (reefer) container claims during the pandemic years as a result of disruptions in the supply chain, with a high number of reefer containers being delayed either in port or during transportation to and from port via road or rail, according to a new report from The Swedish Club – Container Claims – Refrigerated Containers.

Between 2021 and 2022 the Club saw an increase in reefer container claims of 270%, with 4.1% of all container vessels having a reefer claim in 2020, compared with 11.4% in 2021.

Reefer containers are the main cause of all container claims, with 30% of the Club’s total container claims over the past five years being due to refrigerated cargo damage.

Report author Joakim Enström, Senior Loss Prevention Officer at The Swedish Club, noted that reefer containers were “very sensitive to fluctuations in temperature. During the pandemic, we saw disruptions during the many regional lockdowns – the majority of the claims were from China, but the situation was widespread.”

He observed that tis emphasized the importance of monitoring cargoes properly and keeping correct records. “If goods have already been damaged down the supply chain, then the onus is on the crew to demonstrate they have taken proper care of the container, from the moment it is on board until it leaves the vessel,” he said.

Lars Malm, Director Strategic Business Development at Swedish Club, said that “a single reefer container may carry a cargo value of several hundred thousand US dollars or more. Pharmaceuticals are the most expensive cargoes, but as food prices continue to rise then the cost of spoiled meats, fish and speciality fruits and vegetables cannot be underestimated.”

Over the past five years temperature variation (18%), poor monitoring of the reefer unit (7%) and reefer mechanical failure (5%) have in total contributed to 30% of total container claims. This compares with wet damage at 27% and physical damage at 19%.