A significant amount of cargo moves across the world in reefer containers. But what are reefer containers? What type of products or goods can they transport? Reefers are a type of container. In this post we will explain exactly what reefer containers are.

Reefers allow for most of cold chain logistics to take place. Without reefers, anything that needs to be stored in below ambient temperatures will not survive long journeys without incurring significant extra cost.

The reefer container is unique, because it has its own with a refrigerator motor. This allows for the transport of perishable goods or goods that are sensitive to ambient temperatures, such as vegetables, meats, dairy products, fruits, pharmaceuticals or chemicals, etc.

This container, which is equipped with a motor, always depends on an external energy source for its proper functioning. Ships that transport this type of container must carry adequate connections on their platforms or, failing that, specific generators called “gen sets”.

Types of reefer containers

There are different types of reefer containers. The most common are those that allow defining a fixed temperature with a tolerance of +/- 2ºC and within a specific range of -25ºC to + 25ºC, depending on the goods transported. While this is usually sufficient for a vast majority of perishable products, there are cases where lower temperatures or more extreme environmental conditions are required. In these cases, one type or another of reefer container is used, such as the following:

Reefer Super Refrigerants: These containers are equipped with a much better motor with more efficient internal material, which allows the forwarder to keep the temperature of merchandise down at -60ºC. These are highly demanded containers in maritime traffic for fish and some delicate pharmaceutical products.

Reefer Controlled Atmosphere: This type of container contains special internal equipment that allows a certain atmospheric pressure to be maintained in order to control, for example, the ripening processes of some fruits. Some of these containers can also be set to meet high humidity requirements.

Reefer Ventilated: Maritime containers with thermal insulation and / or special insulation products that, together with special motors, provide high ventilation inside the container. They are special containers for products such as potatoes, dried garlic, onions, coffee, etc. This type of container, due to its specificity, is usually only obtained by freight forwarders with extensive experience in the sector and in the reefer market.

A final note

As you can see, not all reefers are made the same! Hence, it is important to work with a forwarder who knows exactly what he/she is doing with a strong business continuity plan in case things go wrong. For example, can the carrier ensure the product remain in optimal temperatures during vessel delays or broken equipment? If yes, for how long is the carrier committed to make alternate arrangements for delays caused by force majeure events?

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