Market Overview

IoT Is Changing Reefer Technology Quickly

IoT Is Changing Reefer Technology Quickly

Virtual mariner "Captain Peter" is the latest addition to the Maersk reefer fleet, with the new addition to the remote container management (RCM) system, first launched in September 2017, still undergoing tests with selected customers.

Captain Peter will offer support to customers with cargo in reefer boxes giving departure and arrival information as well as temperature and atmospheric conditions inside the container. Captain Peter will be added to the improved system this year.

Anne-Sophie Zerlang Karlsen, Head of Global Reefer Management at Maersk, told FreightWaves "In the first half of 2019, Maersk will release the new platform with a revamped design and new product features which will be enhanced by a virtual assistant named Captain Peter."

The idea is that the system will collate information on how customers are using the remote container management facility and add features to the system at a later date.

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"With the number of active users of the RCM platform constantly growing, the aspiration is for Captain Peter to gather enough information to be able to predict potential cargo damage and provide configuration suggestions before containers are shipped," explained Karlsen.

The technology can be used on computers or smartphones and is eventually meant to "feel like your favorite smartphone app," according to Maersk, and allow customers to configure the technology for their specific needs.

"We have been learning a lot from the RCM technology, about ways to utilize it and the ways our customers use it. With this knowledge we will continue to improve the product. We take the input from our customers and utilize the skills and methods of our digital organization to develop the future RCM product," said Karlsen.

The technology has been installed on 270,000 of Maersk's reefer containers. More than 2,300 customers have signed up for the RCM system, around 70 percent of Maersk's reefer customers.

Maersk's container manufacturing business, Maersk Container Industry (MCI), announced last month that it would exit the dry container business and concentrate on the production of reefer containers.

Approximately one-third of the world's reefer containers use MCI's Star Cool technology and the recent launch of Sekstant Global Guidance has seen MCI enter the IoT space, allowing reefer operations to use operational data.

A Maersk spokeswoman said, "MCI's strategy is to grow in cold chain where its Star Cool technology is a clear leader. This growth requires focused investment in the best products and service. While the market for dry containers has been challenged and has been under enormous pressure for some time, reefer volumes continue to grow due to global demand for fresh produce and other commodities."

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The decision to exit the dry container business means that MCI will also close its production facility in Dongguan, China.

"When the decision was announced, the factory had already been idle since the beginning of December 2018," said Maersk.

Last year Maersk acquired German ship operator Hamburg Süd, which is a major player in the South American market, from which a significant amount of reefer cargo is exported.

As a result of that acquisition, Maersk's reefer market share stands at around 30 percent and is expected to grow in line with the market.

Karlsen said, "We will continue to focus on the integration of Hamburg Süd. Maersk has made a $20 million investment to introduce RCM technology across all Hamburg Süd reefers."

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