SPEAKER INTERVIEW: SEAN FITZGERALD

 

Sean Fitzgerald

Chief Executive Officer

Maersk Container Industry (MCI)

Forum: Cold Chain Forum

 

Can you provide an overview of your topic session? Why is this an important topic to discuss?

There is no doubt that the past years have been challenging for the shipping industry and the container freight market has become even more competitive. At the same time, we foresee continued demand for reefer containers for the foreseeable future, driven by consumers’ increasing demand for fresh produce and changes in shipping strategies to fulfil this demand. To better serve our customers’ ambitions in this area, we made the decision to place all focus on growing our highly successful cold chain business and further grow in an industry where our Star Cool technology is already a clear leader. At this year’s Intermodal Europe, we want to speak about this transformation from being a traditional container and machine manufacturer to a dedicated cold chain reefer OEM solely focusing on cargo care, connectivity and related services.   


What has been the biggest challenge to your business in 2019?

As the global climate debate continues to gather momentum, the focus of the shipping world is turning to refrigerants with increased urgency. It is evident that the cost of the most commonly used refrigerant, R134a, will continue increasing across the globe. The price increase is stronger in some regions than in others, but the development is unstoppable. As an example, the price of R134a in Norway has now exceeded that of R513A (with 56% lower GWP). Star Cool is already prepared for R513A, but we are not stopping there. Still based on the same Star Cool platform, we have begun the conformity process for a triple refrigerant concept, with the ability to operate on R134a or R513A as well as the ultra-low GWP refrigerant R1234yf which has already been widely adopted by the automotive industry for air conditioning systems.


How has the reefer market changed in the last year? What are the biggest challenges?

The fierce pressure on freight rates, continuing new orders and deliveries for large container vessels, trade tensions between China and the U.S., the upcoming sulphur cap and the ever-stricter legislation that continues to be imposed, are all perpetuating difficult market conditions in the container shipping sector. In an already highly competitive container freight market, options to reduce increasing operating costs are in high demand with container lines. This is where advanced technology and energy-efficient solutions have a direct positive impact, such as our Star Cool reefer.


Is new reefer technology at odds with sustainability?

To the contrary. We very much believe that smart reefer technologies are needed to further increase energy and operational efficiency. We for example developed StarConomy, a temperature control software programme. Its revolutionary feature is its ability to control both  compressor and fan speed at the same time. Once the pull down on the cargo temperature has been reached, our reefer machine is in fact without compromising cargo care using less electricity than a customary hairdryer. 


What measures should be taken by the industry to ensure market sustainability & growth?

As a container manufacturer, we can clearly see that today’s consumers are already very focused on energy performance when buying white goods for their homes, and we can see this trend being further reflected in our industry as well. In daily operations, our customers need to meet their sustainability goals while operating cost-efficient. As the global climate debate continues to gather momentum, companies are turning to more sustainable solutions to run their businesses. Our Star Cool technology offers customers the lowest total cost of ownership by combining reliability with lower operating costs such as the most energy efficient unit in the industry. Coupled with low-GWP refrigerants, the solutions we offer help our customers to achieve their increasing sustainability objectives. 


Why do you think events such as Intermodal Europe are important for the industry?

Certainly, the Intermodal Europe is one of the events where we can demonstrate solutions and latest innovations that meet our customers’
needs, providing lower costs and supports their environmental agenda. The fair covers every single aspect of the intermodal supply chain, and offers superb networking and contact opportunities.