What the Savvy Buyer Considers When Purchasing Reefer Containers

While most items can be safely transported in standard shipping containers, some goods require special conditions. Reefer containers are often the solution. The precise nature and properties of the cargo to be transported will determine the environmental adjustments necessary to maintain its integrity.


The adjective “reefer” is generally used to describe a container with an integrated refrigeration unit. Before these specialised shipping containers became available, fresh meat, vegetables, flowers, and other perishable items would have had to be transported by air, adding substantially to their cost. Today, fresh flowers from Amsterdam or beef from Argentina are reasonably priced and available from retailers almost anywhere in the world.


Different Types of Reefer Containers


Temperature is only one of several parameters that might affect the quality of perishable goods aboard a container ship. There are three main types of reefer containers, and the first step is to choose the best able to maintain the environmental conditions necessary to ensure your particular cargo arrives at its final destination in perfect condition. Here are some more details about these three options and their purposes:


  • Closed Reefer Containers: This is the most common type, consisting of one piece with an integral front wall. Cooling (or heating) is provided via an integrated unit compliant with the ISO standards for marine containers.


  • Modified or Controlled Atmosphere Models: Often abbreviated to MA/CA, these units differ in two ways from the standard closed reefer model. Firstly, their walls have enhanced insulation. However, their main distinguishing factor is a specialised air exchange controller designed to replace any oxygen consumed during the journey and provide an environment that fully meets cargo specifications while en route to its destination.


  • Automatic Fresh Air Management Containers: One could best describe these units, also known by the acronym AFAM, as a more sophisticated version of the MA/CA type. These models employ an array of sensors to continuously monitor the ambient concentrations of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the container and adjust them to the optimal levels necessary to preserve perishable cargo and extend its shelf life.


Some Tips for Users of Reefer Containers


Here are a few tips for using reefer containers:


  1. Ensure your cargo is packed tightly and stable. Load it on pallets to prevent any obstruction that might otherwise restrict the free circulation of cooled air.


  1. In most cases, it is advisable to pre-cool your cargo before loading it into your container.


  1. Check the appropriate temperature, humidity, and ventilation settings before dispatching your container.


Only Buy Reefer Containers from a Specialist


Absolute Containers is South Africa’s preferred supplier of standard and bespoke containers. Check out our range of units for sale or hire, or contact us for professional guidance when making your selection.