CARRIER Transicold, the world's largest manufacturer of refrigerated containers, now makes all the refrigeration units for its containers solely at its Singapore factory.
The company, a part of the US conglomerate United Technologies Corp, delivers $6 billion worth of cargo each day in its containers. Last month, Carrier celebrated its millionth unit sold. Refrigeration units made in Singapore, like a large majority of Carrier's one million units, account for more than half of all units made in the world.
Singapore's status as a global shipping hub was a key factor in Carrier deciding to base its operations here. "This makes it easier for us to support our global customers," said Chiou Fun Sin, Carrier Transicold's president of Global Container Refrigeration. The productivity, quality, and experience of the workforce, for which Singapore is reputed, was another key reason, he added. This, in addition to the conducive manufacturing environment, were important considerations as the containers are designed to transport high-value cargo for a high-reliability market.
The refrigerated containers, known as "reefers", comprise a refrigeration unit and an insulated shipping container, and cost around US$20,000 per unit. They are used in the transport of temperature-sensitive perishable or frozen cargoes - an industry that is worth $150 billion globally today, said Mr Chiou.
Reefers can be used in the transport of wine or medical vaccines, but the primary cargo they carry is food, including seasonal fruit like bananas. Once viewed as a luxury to be enjoyed on occasions, more people are now viewing them as necessary commodities in their daily lives, creating great demand for imports of such foods from other countries.
"When we were young . . . only on New Year (would) you get a chance to eat apples," said Mr Chiou. "Today, you eat apples every day. In the month of March it's from New Zealand, in September it's Washington apples . . . It's no longer a luxury, it's a necessity."
With a forecasted increase in global population of two billion by 2050, the demand for imported food items is set to rise, suggesting a bright future ahead for the reefer industry. The biggest growth for the reefer industry will come from Asia, added Mr Chiou, citing the growth of the economy in the region and the fast-developing middle class as some factors that contributed to creating such a great demand.