Smart Containers Expected to Grow Six-Fold Over Five Years

The global telematics enabled container equipment fleet is forecast to grow six-fold over the next five years and account for 30% of global box inventories by 2027, driven by wider adoption across the dry container fleet, according to a new report from UK consultancy Drewry.

Smart containers have grown in popularity in recent years, a trend that was exacerbated by the advent of the covid epidemic and the resulting supply chain disruption, which highlighted the need for improved cargo visibility to deal with lengthier and more volatile transit times.

A container becomes “smart” when fitted with a telematics device that provides real-time tracking and monitoring, enabling operators to increase turnaround time of their containers and so improve equipment availability. It also allows beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) to understand the location and status of their cargo so that they can better control their supply chains.

Drewry estimates that by the end of 2022, around 5.6% of the global container equipment fleet was fitted with smart technology devices, following growth of 57% through the year; an acceleration from the 32% gain recorded the previous year. Already over half of both the maritime reefer and land based intermodal container fleets are smart-enabled, the former up from a third last year, according to Drewry estimates.

Drewry forecasted that the number of smart containers in the global fleet will accelerate over the next five years, to reach over 10m units, representing as much as 30% of worldwide box inventories. 

“As technological innovation lowers the cost of devices and enhances their value to both transport operators and BCOs, uptake is expected to hasten,” Drewry noted.

Smart fleet acceleration will be driven by strong uptake in the dry container fleet, where Drewry sees current penetration as little as 0.7%. Several carriers, including Hapag-Lloyd and Japan’s ONE, have publicly committed to equipping their entire dry box fleet with smart devices, the former as soon as next year. Drewry said it believes these moves will force other leading carriers to follow suit.