Reefer Containers, Their Uses, and the Industries That Utilise Them

Airfreight was once the only way to export perishables like fruits and vegetables. However, reefer containers now enable more affordable seaborne transport. The economies of many countries are wholly dependent on their exports, while others cannot survive without a steady supply of essential items from overseas. Air freight is costly, and there is a relatively low limit to the carrying capacity of an aircraft. By contrast, the larger bulk-carrier cargo ships can accommodate up to 100,000 tonnes or more.

When transporting cargoes such as machinery, cement, ores, coal, and grain, it is only necessary to provide sufficient space and protection from the elements. However, some items are inherently unstable, and special precautions are essential to maintain their integrity. The term “reefer” is a shortened form of refrigerated container, an innovation that has allowed such items to be transported safely and cost-effectively across the world’s oceans.

Typical Items that Must be Transported in Reefer Containers

Reefer ContainersThe goods that require transporting in this fashion fall into two main categories, which are:

  1. Edibles

Most fresh foods have a relatively short shelf-life. Unless sold directly from their source, they must be kept at a sufficiently low temperature to retain their freshness until they arrive at their point of sale. This requirement applies both whilst at sea and during the final stage of their journey by road or rail.

While some items merely need to be kept cool, others might need to be deep-frozen. A refrigerated container must cater to all needs. Hence, reefers can typically maintain an internal temperature of between -35ºC and +35ºC regardless of the external conditions. However, temperature control alone will not guarantee freshness. These specialised containers are also designed to manage ventilation, humidity, and atmospheric composition, such as the relative concentrations of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Fruit and vegetable growers, meat and poultry producers, dairy farmers, and fisheries rely heavily on reefers to ensure their products remain fresh.

  1. Medicines

Few countries have the capacity to manufacture all the medication they require, and patents frequently prevent them from developing generics. Hence, international trade in pharmaceuticals is a billion-dollar business. However, many medicines are volatile and could become ineffective during a long sea voyage unless kept at the correct temperature. While airfreight offers a possible solution, reefers are a much cheaper option and help keep pharmaceutical prices more affordable.

Sourcing Reefer Containers in South Africa

We at Absolute Containers are leading suppliers of bespoke mobile storage solutions. If you need help transporting perishable goods, please supply further details by completing our online contact form.