Shipping line goes cold on Liverpool tomatoes route

Dutch shipping firm WEC Lines invests in refrigeration containers to support new fresh produce import service at Port of Liverpool. Tony McDonough reports

Wec Van Ruysdael
Wec Van Ruysdael, a WEC container vessel on the Mersey. Picture by Ian Fairbrother


WEC Lines is investing in new refrigeration containers as it looks to grow its new service importing tomatoes and other fresh produce via the Port of Liverpool.

In January LBN revealed the Dutch shipping operator was introducing a new freight service linking Agadir in Morocco with Liverpool for the first time. Morocco is overtaking Spain as one of the biggest suppliers of tomatoes to the UK.

WEC Lines has been running ships between Liverpool and Portugal and Spain since 2019. In February 2023 it added a new series of weekly calls from Northern Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Canary Islands.

Now, in a bid to maximise the potential of the new route, WEC is adding the first batch of 5045ft high-cube pallet-wide refrigerated container (reefer) units to its fleet of container vessels.

It says the demand for reefer containers has been rising steadily across multiple sectors, including food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare. This is being driven by the need for reliable and secure transport of temperature-sensitive goods.

According to the projections published in Drewry’s 2023 Reefer Shipping Forecaster, container vessels will see their carryings of reefer containers rise with 4% a year between 2023-2028 as the perishables trade proves more resilient to economic downturns.

Each of the containers is equipped with an electric cooling system to maintain precise temperature control within a range from -30ºC to +30ºC. This protects perishable cargos such as fruit and vegetables, fresh or processed food, pharma, and dairy products.

With its short sea vessels already equipped with reefer plugs and sufficient reefer slots, last month WEC Lines launched a new direct service between Agadir in Morocco and Portugal, Spain, and Liverpool. This provides an alternative to overland trucking.

Caesar Luikenaar, managing director of WEC Lines, said: “With this new investment, WEC Lines is ready to meet the growing demand for refrigerated cargo within Europe.

“Adding new reefer units enables us to serve our clients with new and fresh stock and also meet the large demand for new containers and equipment availability in current markets.”

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