Shipping containers have made it possible to ship all kinds of goods in a standardised manner, revolutionising global trade and storage. However, if you have goods sensitive to temperature, a standard container may not be suitable.
Way back in the 1800s, ships were attempting to use ice and salt in their cargo holds to reduce the amount of spoiling that occurred. Recognising there was a clear gap in the system, engineers began to experiment with refrigerated containers in the late 19th century, leading to the invention and introduction of the reefer container as we know it today.
The invention of the reefer container meant that goods were guaranteed to be preserved throughout the shipping process, playing a vital role in any industry that deals with perishable goods.
With the ability to carry such temperature-sensitive goods, reefers are undoubtedly one of the most important container types out there. Continue reading to find out more about how reefer containers work and the variety of ways you can use them.
What are Reefer Containers?
As mentioned, reefer containers are used to transport temperature-sensitive goods, but what exactly are they?
Short for ‘refrigerated container’, by definition, a reefer container is a type of shipping container that keeps its cargo at a stabilised temperature by functioning as a large fridge. As one of the six types of shipping containers used for freight purposes, they are ideal and typically used for transporting goods such as pharmaceuticals, fruits, meat, fish and flowers.
While their temperature regulation has made them a fundamental part of shipping and storage today, they provide an extensive list of benefits, including:
- The ability to keep goods cold constantly,
- Being available in a variety of dimensions depending on the road, sea, or air use,
- Can be partitioned to hold different temperature departments (e.g. frozen and chilled),
- Just like regular containers, they are sturdy and durable,
- Standardised structure means they can be transported by any carrier, and;
- Prevent goods from spoiling and ensure a longer shelf-life by circulating cool air.
How do they work?
If they look like regular containers and are built like standard containers, then how do they have the ability to function differently?
Essentially, reefer containers function via a constant supply of electricity, generally supplied by the vessel's power outlet or portable generators. They use this energy to maintain specified temperatures between -35 and +35 degrees Celsius regardless of external temperatures.
Technically speaking, the design of the container is crafted to ensure air can flow across the entire shipment correctly as a means to provide temperature regulation. As different goods require different temperatures, these reefer containers are also built to raise the cargo temperature when needed.
The container's control unit allows for setting and adjusting parameters such as temperature, humidity, ventilation, and atmosphere. The adjustable options mean that any type of cargo can be transported. Even fruits that require specific CO2 and O2 levels to ripen and stay fresh can be transported accordingly.
Popular Uses of Reefer Containers
According to a Global Newswire report; the reefer container market size is expected to reach 5,981,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in 2030, a 7.3% growth from the previous decade period.
With the popularity of these containers clearly on the rise, what are they being used for?
Convenient portable refrigeration is not easy to come by. Cold rooms are an option. However, they can be clunky and unreliable and lack the advantage of portability.
Reefer containers, on the contrary, have all these features and more, making them the obvious choice for portable refrigeration.
Catering for large events where lots of food is required can make things rather difficult, especially if you are not located somewhere with an industrial kitchen. Reefer containers are perfect for festivals, weddings or sports events where you likely don’t have close access to refrigeration but are using a lot more food than an esky can hold.
Using a reefer container also allows you to move it between different locations when required, which can be extremely handy if your event is on such a large scale.
Natural disasters and accidents are a part of life, no matter how much we don’t enjoy thinking about them. However, the recent SEQ and NSW floods have proven the importance of disaster solutions and the value of reliable everyday objects.
Thanks to power outages and the lack of access that generally arises throughout natural disasters, it can often be difficult to store and keep food for people who have been affected. Reefer containers provide an optimal solution to this dilemma by being both a vessel for food transportation and a means of storage.
A simple container with the ability to keep food cold for those who need it most is one of the most valuable assets in a time of need.
Additional factory storage
Running out of storage is not uncommon but has become an increasingly prevalent issue with the unpredictable fluctuations from the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, no matter the cause, if you are running out of cold storage space, it can be extremely difficult to source more, particularly in the required swift manner. Reefer containers, however, can provide a quick and fast solution to get your goods into optimal temperatures.
It is common to hire a few reefer containers to complement your existing warehouse or storage when required. This can occur if you purchase extra storage with the anticipation of demand spikes or if you have excess stock capacity.
Not only are reefer containers fantastic for refrigeration goods in alternative locations, but they can safely transport goods in a refrigerated manner.
The predominant perk of these containers is that they operate as fridges when they are stagnant and on the go. This means you can transport goods from one location to another without reducing quality.
Suppose you’re planning on catering for a ‘destination’ event that perhaps doesn’t have a nearby store. In that case, reefer containers allow you to use what goods you have, purchase other products beforehand, and transport them intact to your location.
You may not require a warehouse load of storage space, but perhaps you need general, temporary, temperature regulated storage facilities.
Reefer containers are for much more than commercial use, as their space, durability, and temperature control means you can customise their use to whatever your purpose may be.
Food storage is an everyday use for reefer containers, as they can keep the internal temperature cool and ensure proper air circulation so that the food is not spoilt. If you are in the florist business or perhaps you’re an avid gardener, reefer containers can also be extremely useful for transporting and storing flowers.
Additionally, as any wine connoisseur would know, wines can be highly temperamental. Transporting wines across the country can be tedious to ensure their quality, as any change in temperature can cause them to go bad. Transporting and storing them in reefer containers ensures the temperature can be specialised and controlled.
Choosing a Reefer Container
Reefer containers are undeniably helpful for a variety of purposes and, depending on your requirements, can be the most viable solution.
Much like standard containers, reefers come in various sizes, depending on their use. Fortunately, most containers are manufactured according to standard sizes set by the International Organisation for Standardisation, making it simple to incorporate them into your existing systems and storage.
Traditionally, reefers come in 20ft, 40ft and 40 HC options. If you’re unsure what size reefer to invest in, contact your local container experts today. At Tiger Containers, we know all about shipping containers' intriguing and tedious elements. We are determined to help step you through the process of finding the right container for you!