Refrigerated containers – often called reefers – provide optimal temperature and humidity control for the transportation and storage of perishables through the control of air flow.
Whether you’re transporting or storing temperature and humidity-sensitive items, a refrigerated container can provide your business with a reliable, cost-effective solution.
How refrigerated containers work
Refrigerated containers are manufactured in two standard lengths, of 6 and 12 metres. These durable, steel-lined containers can support cold storage temperatures between -20° C and 10° C.
One container can even be partitioned to provide storage for both frozen and chilled products.
Among the items commonly transported or stored in a reefer are perishable foodstuffs, flowers, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and film.
Reefers are designed to distribute chilled air evenly from the floor vents over the entire contents of the container. This is achieved through the circulation of cold air from the bottom of the container to the top, where it is cooled in the integrated refrigeration unit before being pumped back into the interior space.
Frozen mode is provided through the flow of return air, while chill mode is achieved through the control of the supply air flow.
The nature of the air – specifically the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels – can be modified to slow down the ripening process of fresh produce, lengthening the viable storage period. Forced circulation of cool air also removes intrusive odours, unwanted gases and moisture from the container, helping preserve the quality of its contents.
The benefits of hiring a refrigerated container
Constructed from marine-grade steel, reefers can be used outdoors, even in harsh climates, and are fully secure. Reefers are also easy to maintain and, with aluminium flooring, easy to clean.
Reefers provide reliable cold storage during transit. They also serve as a cheap alternative to building a fixed cold-storage unit, for storage purposes.
When you need more storage capacity, you can simply add one or more additional containers. This is faster and more flexible than building a brick and mortar cold storage unit, and can make it unnecessary to expand your premises or sacrifice existing space.
Thanks to their durability, strength, security and reliable internal temperature-control systems, reefers are ideal for the following uses:
- the transportation of perishables (fruit, fish, meat and dairy are the four perishables that are most commonly transported in a reefer)
- permanent and temporary cold storage for temperature-sensitive medication and volatile chemical
- the transportation of electronics (refrigeration can prevent heat damage to batteries, wires and circuitry boards in transit)
- mobile catering and refrigeration for functions and events
- cold storage for retail purposes
- the transportation of antiques, paintings and other items sensitive to heat and humidity
- seasonal harvest storage.
Refrigerated containers and international trade
The introduction of refrigerated containers has allowed the food industry to take advantage of global seasonable variation. This means that during winter in the northern hemisphere, fruit and vegetables can be imported from the southern hemisphere, and vice versa. As a result, any major supermarket around the world might stock citrus fruit from South Africa, apples from New Zealand and asparagus from New Mexico, over the course of a year.
Refrigerated containers are also to thank for the widespread availability of bananas. The first reefer ship for the banana trade was introduced by the United Food Company in 1902, allowing bananas to be exported without over-ripening in transit. Today, banana exportation dominates the refrigerated container industry, with Latin America and the Caribbean accounting for the highest dollar value worth of banana exports worldwide.
Other major improvements in international trade resulting from the use of reefers include the export of avocados and fresh flowers from Kenya; wine and citrus fruit from South Africa; tobacco products and electronics from China; cosmetics from France; and pharmaceuticals and beef from India.