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Maersk consolidates reefer production in China and closes Chile plant

AP Moeller Maersk's subsidiary, Maersk Container Industry (MCI), is consolidating the production of refrigerated shipping containers in China and is closing its reefer manufacturing plant in San Antonio, Chile less than three years after it opened

Maersk consolidates reefer production in China and closes Chile plant
20 June 2018 - 19:06

AP Moeller Maersk's subsidiary, Maersk Container Industry (MCI), is consolidating the production of refrigerated shipping containers in China and is closing its reefer manufacturing plant in San Antonio, Chile less than three years after it opened.

The San Antonio factory opened in November 2015 and Maersk said it had located it there to supply reefer containers directly into what it called 'the export hub on the west coast of Latin America.'



When the factory opened, MCI said, 'In this sweet spot of fruit exporters, we have placed the factory right where the demand is. For the first time ever in South America, reefer containers can go straight 'from factory to farm.' Offering the Star Cool Integrated reefers locally to shipping lines, farmers, fruit distributors and leasing companies will have a financial benefit counted in thousands of dollars per reefer and millions for the industry in total.'



But last week the company said the new factory has not worked out, reports American Shipper.



'The reefer container market has changed fundamentally towards heavy overcapacity. At the same time, it has been challenging for Maersk Container Industry to develop a localised supply chain base of raw materials and key components to support its factory. As a result, manufacturing at the facility has shown not to be competitive in the global markets,' the company said.



MCI's CEO Sean Fitzgerald said: 'The harsh reality is that to be competitive today requires us to adapt our operations constantly. Fundamental market factors have changed and so must we to grow with the market. Regrettably, this decision impacts our 1,209 skilled colleagues in San Antonio and we are committed to supporting them and honoring our obligations.'



A Maersk representative said a small group of employees will be offered a temporary position to support the cease of operations.



She added: 'Demand for reefer containers increased in 2017 compared to the unprecedented low level in 2016 but was still below 2015 volumes. The demand for dry containers was above 2016. Generally, the ocean container manufacturing market for dry and reefer containers remains characterised by oversupply, and Maersk Container Industry expects this to continue for the foreseeable future.'



In 2017, 80 per cent of the containers MCI made were for Maersk companies, including Hamburg-Sud, which it acquired last year.



Maersk Container Industry's factory for making reefer containers is in Qingdao, China. Maersk also has a factory in Dongguan, China for making dry containers. MCI produces reefer containers as well as cooling units, which it says offers customers the advantage to obtain both from a single source.



'We will be able to suit market needs from our facility in Qingdao and do not plan to build a new factory,' a Maersk representative said.



Maersk had said when reporting its first-quarter earnings this year that its 'reefer factories ran at full capacity in Q1 2018 with the production volume in the Chinese factory being on par with 2017 whereas the factory in Chile increased the output by 17 per cent. Profitability on the dry containers were negatively impacted by higher material cost for steel. Financially MCI reported a satisfactory revenue growth of 18 per cent and an unchanged EBITDA margin of 11 per cent.'

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