The Nature of Reefers and Some of Their Typical Uses

The advent of shipping containers saw cheap sea freight dominate international trade. To transport perishable goods, shippers have since introduced reefers. In the past, farmers had little option but to sell their fresh produce locally. Anything unsold would have been used as animal feed or compost for the following year’s crop.


With the introduction first of canning and, later, frozen foods, farmers were encouraged to produce more and guaranteed a captive market for their increased output. Nevertheless, due to the exorbitant cost of air freight, the distribution of both fresh and frozen products was limited mainly to their country of origin, as only canned goods could survive long-distance transportation by sea.


Fortunately, these limitations no longer apply. Today, supermarket shelves in the UK are packed with grapes, mangos, pineapples, kiwi fruit, and bananas from all over the world. In South Africa, we can enjoy poultry, meat, dairy products, and frozen foods from many other countries. Let’s learn more about the reefer containers that have made all this possible.


What are Reefers?


The term was coined by combining two words, “refrigerated” and “container”, and refers to a specialised type of shipping container with a built-in climate control facility. Its role is not merely to lower the temperature of its contents but to maintain them at a preset temperature.


The requirement differs between chilled and frozen goods. For example, chilling requires a constant through-flow of cool air between cartons, and the container must be ventilated. Contrastingly, cartons of frozen goods must be tightly packed, the container sealed, and the cold air circulated around them.

Reefer - Cold Shipping Container


The Three Main Types of Reefers

Here are the three main types of reefers:


  1. Closed: This is the most commonly used type. It is a one-piece container with an integrated heating and cooling unit that conforms to the ISO standards for seagoing containers.


  1. Modified/Controlled Atmosphere: Also known as MA/CA units, these reefer containers have enhanced insulation and an air exchange controller to replace consumed oxygen.


  1. Automatic Fresh Air Management: This upgraded version of the MA/CA type employs a sensor array to adjust the air exchange rate and accurately control humidity, oxygen, and CO2


Typical Uses of Reefers


These seagoing refrigerated containers are exceptionally versatile. The following are some of their more common cargoes:


  • Perishable Foods: These include fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy products.


  • Pharmaceuticals: These are often temperature sensitive. Reefer containers offer a more affordable option to airfreight.


  • Flowers: High ozone levels in the container inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungi, and moulds.


Sourcing Reefers


We at Absolute Containers are South Africa’s container specialist. We offer an extensive range for sale or rent. Why not click here to see how we can help you?