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Reefer Containers – Ultimate Guide to Know About Reefer Shipping

The safety and preservation of your shipment depend largely on the mode of shipping and the containers used. Only an expert who has closely worked in the shipping and logistics fields knows the subtle differences between the various containers types. There are basic containers as well as containers with enhancements for special purposes. That’s why choosing the right container can be tricky unless you have a thorough understanding of their use and mechanisms. One of the most technologically advanced container types are reefer containers. This post discusses in details about reefer containers and their application so that clients have a clear idea about their suitability for their needs.

Types of Reefer Containers

Reefers are refrigerated shipping containers which are used for storing and shipping perishable items that require a controlled temperature. They are available in three primary types:

Closed Reefers: This is the most common refrigerated container which has an integral front wall and an all-electric automatic cooling and heating system.

Controlled Atmosphere Reefer Containers: These are insulated shipping containers which can maintain a constant temperature by replacing the consumed oxygen with the help of an air exchange system. It ensures the temperature inside is ideal and at equilibrium which prevents the product’s deterioration.

Automatic Fresh Air Management Containers: Also known AFAM reefer containers, they have highly advanced technology that regulates the air by adjusting the fresh air exchange inside the container. The controls of these containers can be adjusted to prolong the shelf life of the shipments.

Certain important factors that you should keep in mind about these containers are:

  • The refrigerating unit is fitted in front and is a part of the front wall of the container.
  • Some units have dual voltage settings like 190/230 and 380/460 volts A.C., 3 phase and operate on 50-60 hertz power.
  • A single-phase transformer is provided to control the power and it can step the A.C. power supply source to 24 volts and 1phase control.

Different Components of Reefer Units

The reefer unit comprises of several units which control different functions served by these containers.


This section consists of a compressor with an H.P. switch and power cable storage compartment. There is a modulation and suction solenoid valve that controls the gas flow. Safety fittings like moisture indicator, pressure relief valve, are present which are further enhanced by electronic monitoring through various sensors. They are the discharge, ambient, supply recorder and the supply air temperature sensors.


There is a condenser fan and motor along with a condenser coil and saturation sensor in this section. The condenser air gets pulls from the bottom of the container and then discharged horizontally through the centre. There are certain units which use a water-cooled condenser or receiver and are comparatively more expensive.


In this section there is a temperature sensing bulb, return recorder bulb sensor and a thermostatic expansion valve. An evaporator coil and heater, drain pan, defrost and heat transmission switches are assembled here. The function of the evaporator fan is to circulate the air throughout the container. This is done by pulling the air at the top of the refrigerator unit and directing it through evaporator coil where it is either heated or cooled and then dissipated out at the bottom into the container.

Fresh Air Vent

When you are shipping commodities which require fresh air circulation, these are required and must be kept closed while shipping frozen goods. The air exchange within the container depends on the static pressure deferential which changes according to how the container is loaded.

How Reefer Containers Function

These containers are designed to distribute cold air from the floor through the decking which is designed to produce consistent air flow across the entire shipment. An ideal air exchange is maintained with the goods throughout the journey to keep them fresh. Reefer containers are not designed to freeze or cool your cargo but rather helps in maintaining the pre-cooled or frozen state of the goods. Not only can it maintain a cool temperature but these containers can “warm up” the goods which need it up to 30 degree Celsius, regardless of the temperature outside.

Different Uses of Reefer Containers

Reefer containers can be used both for shipping as well as storage. Different goods and commodities for which you will need to use the reefer containers are:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Dairy products
  • Frozen meat, poultry items
  • Seafood varieties from across the world
  • Pharmaceutical and medicinal goods
  • Preserving and transporting props from movie sets
  • Exotic flowers import and export
  • Wine
  • Goods supply to remote military camps
  • Useful during disaster management

When you are shipping any kind of perishable goods in bulk, these are the best containers you will find. Hire a shipping company who has ample reefer containers at their disposal in varied sizes to meet your requirements. Understanding the functioning and construction of these containers will help you to choose it wisely when you are hiring a service that provides professional shipping.

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