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The modern shipping container was invented back in 1956 and was originally meant for transporting general cargo, also known as dry cargo.

The then new cargo container was highly successful as it reduced shipping times (by easing loading and offloading of cargo) and better-utilised space on ships and at the port. The cargo container had one downside though; it couldn’t be used to transport temperature sensitive goods.

Engineers went back to the drawing board and in the 60’s came up with the first refrigerated container or reefer container. By the way, the word reefer is all encompassing and refers to containers that can either cool or freeze cargo.

The first reefers were quite rudimentary compared to current models. In fact, they were/are actually not referred to as refrigerated containers but rather as insulated containers.

The better term to use for them however is porthole containers – a name inspired by the presence of two holes on one end for ventilation. One hole brings in cold air while the other one, located above the cold one, takes out the warm air. These containers need to be connected to a central reefer plant where the air to be pumped in is cooled. The use of this kind of “reefer” has been decreasing over the years and might come to an end sometime in the future.

With time a more sophisticated reefer container was introduced. This new reefer was fitted with its own integrated cooling system which made it much easier to move between different modes of transport. The improved reefer could be moved from sea to rail to road without any complications.

(Image of a reefer: http://www.klingecorp.com/freezer-units/cbu-30/)

The reefer container is arguably the greatest modification of a shipping container to date. With its new-found cooling abilities, the shipping container could now be used to transport temperature sensitive cargo such as fruits, meat, vegetables, eggs, films, plants and pharmaceuticals.

How refers work

Reefers work by blowing cold air from the bottom of the unit to the top where it exits. The air circulates under, over and through the cargo before going back to the reefer’s integrated refrigeration unit where it is cooled and pumped back. To enhance circulation, the container’s floor is grated and the side walls “corrugated”.

(Image of the inside of a reefer: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refrigerated_container )

Reefers can either be self-powered or they can rely on external power points on quay, land base or container ship. Self-powered reefers are fitted with a fuel run “gen set” that provides power for the refrigeration unit.

Reefer container dimensions

On the outside, reefer container dimensions resemble those of regular shipping containers. But because of the space consumed by the refrigeration unit and insulation, the internal dimensions are less than those of a regular container. Reefer containers come it two common lengths, 20’ and 40’. The 40’ high cube variant is the most popular as it is large enough to house the modifications and still have plenty enough room for cargo.

Reefer container dimensions are as follows:

1.    20’ reefer container

     –  Length: 19.84 ft.  (6.05 m)
     –  Width: 8 ft.  (2.44 m)
     –  Height: 8.5 ft.  (2.59 m)
     –  Internal length: 17.9 ft. (5.44 m)
     –  Internal width: 7.5 ft. (2.29 m)
     –  Internal height: 7.5 ft. (2.27 m)

2.    40’ reefer container

     –  Length: 40 ft. (12.19m)
     –  Width: 8 ft.  (2.44m)
     –  Height: 8.5ft (2.59m)
     –  Internal length: 37.9 ft. (11.56 m)
     –  Internal width: 7.5 ft. (2.28 m)
     –  Internal height: 7.4 ft. (2.25 m)

3.    40’ high cube reefer

      – Length: 40 ft. (12.19 m)
      – Width: 8 ft.  (2.44 m)
      – Height: 9.6 ft. (2.9 m)
      – Internal length: 38 ft. (11.58 m)
      – Internal width: 7.5 ft. (2.29 m)
      – Internal height: 7.9 ft. (2.40 m)

When it comes to shipping containers, Tiger Containers has got you covered. We stock both new and used containers of all varieties and we’ll even make the modifications for you to make the container more suitable for your specific needs.

Sources:

http://www.tis-gdv.de/tis_e/containe/arten/kuehlcon/kuehlcon.htm

http://www.dsv.com/sea-freight/sea-container-description/reefer-containers

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refrigerated_container

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