Intelligent container fleet is set to increase sixfold in the next five years

According to a new report by British consultancy Drewry, the global telematics-enabled container equipment fleet is expected to grow six-fold over the next five years and account for 30% of the world’s container inventory by 2027, driven by wider adoption across the dry container fleet.

Smart containers have grown in popularity in recent years, a trend reinforced by the emergence of the Covid epidemic and the resulting supply chain disruption, highlighting the need for improved cargo visibility to handle longer and more volatile transit times.

A container becomes “smart” when equipped with a telematics device that enables real-time tracking and monitoring, allowing operators to increase the turnaround time of their containers, thereby improving device availability. In addition, beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) can understand the location and status of their cargo, allowing them to better control their supply chains.

Drewry estimates that by the end of 2022, approximately 5.6% of the global container equipment fleet would be equipped with smart technology devices, following a 57% growth for the year; an acceleration from the 32% increase recorded the previous year. However, acceptance varies significantly depending on the type of equipment, with market penetration already high in reefer and intermodal containers, but much lower in the dry box sector. Drewry estimates that more than half of both maritime reefer container fleets and land-based intermodal container fleets are already smart-enabled, with the former more than a third last year.

Drewry predicted that the number of smart containers in the global fleet will increase over the next five years, reaching over 10 million units, accounting for up to 30% of the world box inventory.

“As technological innovations drive device costs down and increase their value for both transit operators and BCOs, adoption is expected to increase,” noted Drewry.

Intelligent fleet acceleration is being driven by the proliferation of the dry container fleet, where Drewry currently expects market penetration to be just 0.7%. Several airlines, including Hapag-Lloyd and Japan’s ONE, have publicly committed to equipping their entire dry box fleet with smart devices as early as next year. Drewry believes these moves will force other leading airlines to follow suit.

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