If you or your business has been shipping products overseas for a while, you probably already know that a “Reefer” is the term used for a refrigerated container. A container is simply a large metal box used to transport goods by air, ocean, road or rail. A Reefer is the same type of container but refrigerated for any goods that require a constant, cooler temperature.

Reefers are mostly used for the transportation of meats, vegetables, dairy and other products that need temperature control like medications or flowers.

Here is some related, international shipping information. Check out these articles created to help any business needing to understand more about freight forwarding and shipping products overseas:


Today’s technology makes shipping goods that need refrigeration much more efficient than it used to be. The technology used in a refrigerated container today starts from a T-based flooring configuration. This brings the cooling from the bottom of the container and makes it much more efficient while providing a uniform cool air flow across the entire container. This design also makes it easy to maintain consistency in temperature in every square foot.

Below are a few important facts and considerations to be aware of when using reefers or refrigerated containers:

1: Steri Shipments – Cold Treatments

Remember that a refrigerated container does not work like an actual refrigerator. They are not designed to to take a warm product and bring that temperature down to a colder or frozen level. They are design to maintain the temperature of the product as it is at the point or origin. Some countries like China and Japan have a requirement that certain perishables receive this cold treatment or steri shipment. What this means is that these specific shipments will need to be cooled to an even lower temperature than they are at market to be accepted into one of these ports. This is an important requirement with very little room for tolerance. These temperatures are normally monitored by special probes throughout the container to be sure these requirements are met.

2: Details That Need To Be Observed

Because of the sensitive nature of refrigerated shipments, there are additional considerations that need the attention of the shipper and shipping company to be sure all requirements and restrictions are met. Here are some examples.

  • To keep airflow efficient, be sure packing leaves all cartons spaced properly. If perishable cargo cartons don’t leave the proper amount of space between them, airflow will be pushed around those cartons leaving those sections uncooled like some others.
  • Ventilation: A reefer will give you the ability to set ventilation settings appropriately and specifically for certain types of shipments. Be sure these settings are accurate.
  • Pay attention to any pre-cooling requirements and remember that it is the cargo that needs to be pre-cooled,  not the refrigerated container.
  • Always check dehumidification settings.
  • Stability in packing is critical. There is no room for the shifting of cargo during shipment.
  • Always observe the red load lines and T-floor limitations so all cargo remains within the refrigeration zone.

3: Different Types Of Refrigerated Units:

  • Integral Unit – This is the most common type of refrigerated container. Because a refrigerated container has the obvious additional needs when compared to a dry unit container, the electronics of refrigeration technology is built into the side of the container in a way that it doesn’t make the size of the container any different from a normal container. What this means is the interior space available is that much less because the refrigeration equipment has to be accounted for.
  • Porthole Containers – Sometimes these containers are referred to as an insulated container as oppose to a refrigerated container. The primary difference here is that the insulated conainer is cooled from the main cooling system of the vessel as oppose to using it’s own cooling equipment attached to the container itself. There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these container types.

4: Remember The Doors:

In any type of container, it is the doors that represent the weakest link. Paying attention to the rubber door gaskets and the related wear is one way to protect against this loss of performance issue. Another way to protect your investments is proper training so you can be sure the personnel involved handle and treat the doors to each refrigerated unit carefully and with the understanding that these handling procedures can have a long lasting effect on all international shipping.

5: Understanding The Objectives:

The primary objective of using a refrigerated container is having a controlled atmosphere. Having the ability to do this presents some challenges and one of those challenges is to understand what that means and what kind of control you really have. It is important to take the time to understand how CO2 and O2 need to be configured as these are the most fundamental elements of a controlled atmosphere. The right balance has a significant impact on the ripening period as well as the storage period you have on most perishables. Humidity is another element important to gain control of. For example, you will have to have the ability to keep humidity between 55% and 95% depending on the shipment.

international shipping containersPARTNER WITH THE RIGHT SHIPPING COMPANY:

One of the primary reasons we continue to write and post blog articles like this is to educate our customers and any other business that depends on international shipping. We feel it’s important to consider a freight forwarder, domestic shipping or international shipping company as a partner. Someone you can lean on to make sure knowledge and experience is on your side. Although shipping is an important part of your business, your time and skill set is required in so many other areas of your operation. When you find a shipping company you can count on, it reduces stress and increases reliability to service.

We encourage you to ask any and all questions and consider ETC International Freight Systems when researching your international shipping options. To connect or ask a question, just use the button below. We are happy to provide an accurate rate quote for any shipping needs you have.

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