Reefer Container

There are a few types of containers. Some are more specific than others. One, in particular, the reefer container, is a specialist container. So, what is the reefer container, and what can you do with it?

As container rent and supply experts all around Australia, this is a question we're in the best position to answer.

A reefer container is a refrigerated shipping container used to transport perishable goods. Depending on the setting, they are temperature-controlled and can keep goods cool or frozen. Reefer containers are often used to transport food, pharmaceuticals, and other temperature-sensitive items.

But of course, the trick is knowing which cooling type you need, when you need to use a reefer container, and how to use it.

So we'll dive into some more information to help, or just give us a call, and we'll help you select the container that completely suits your needs.

What is a Reefer Container?

Reefer containers are specialised shipping containers designed to keep your goods cool or frozen during transportation.

Reefer containers get their name from the reference to "refrigeration" built into them. Sometimes they’re also called “RF containers”.

These units regulate the container's temperature by either cooling it down or heating it. There are a few different types depending on the intended cargo. So we'll get into those shortly.

According to research experts, the number of reefer containers in circulation is expected to reach 7,063.3 thousand TEUs by 2030. TEU essentially means twenty-foot equivalent units as a mean measurement of size.

So you will likely have seen one or come across one as a shipping agent at some point.

What are reefer containers used for?

Reefer containers are typically used to transport perishable goods such as food, pharmaceuticals, and other items that must be kept at a controlled temperature. However, they can also be used for non-perishable items that require refrigeration, such as chemicals or electronics.

Reefers are commonly used to transport goods internationally. Because they are equipped with unique temperature controls and insulation, they can maintain a consistent temperature while in transit through hot and cold regions to prevent spoilage or contamination.

Overall, reefer containers play an important role in global logistics.

Whether you're transporting food, pharmaceuticals, or other temperature-sensitive items, reefers can help ensure that your goods arrive at their destination in perfect condition.

Several different types of reefer containers are available, each with its unique features and benefits.

What can you do with a reefer container?

There are different types of reefer containers for different needs.

Depending on what you are transporting, a reefer container may be ideal.

Reefer containers offer numerous advantages, whether you're shipping food items, medical supplies, or other temperature-sensitive cargo.

For example, they provide optimal temperature control and protection from the elements, making them well suited for various applications.

Additionally, much like standard containers, they can be easily transported by road or sea.

Note: Reefers ideally need to be pre-cooled. An empty trailer takes approximately two hours to cool with the doors kept closed.

So when you order your reefer container at any of our Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne or Freemantle locations, allow this time before loading the trailer.

order your reefer container

Types of Reefer Containers

There are two main types of reefer containers in terms of size:

Standard reefers: The most common type of reefer containers. Standard lengths are 10, 20, and 40 feet.
High cube reefers: These are taller than standard reefers at 20 feet high. Available in 20 and 40 feet lengths.

In terms of cooling mechanisms, there are again some variations. We can help you more with this when you order your container. But here's a quick rundown on the types.

Reefer cooling by air

The air method of cooling a reefer is the most common and typically the most effective. Air-cooled reefers have a cooling unit mounted on the end wall of the container that forces cool air through the unit, usually via the floor or side of the container.

The floor arrangement in a reefer allows cooling air circulation throughout the trailer.

Air-cooled reefer containers are perfect for transporting products such as fresh fruit and vegetables and meat and dairy products.

The cold air circulates throughout the container, lowering the cargo temperature inside.

Reefer cooling by water

A water-cooled reefer has a cooling unit mounted on the reefer's underside that circulates water through the container's floor.

This water is then cooled in a separate cooling unit and piped back into the reefer container to cool down your cargo.

These containers are ideal for transporting temperature-sensitive products such as frozen foods, ice cream, and pharmaceuticals.

Dry ice reefer

Dry ice reefers use a cooling system that circulates cold air through the container using a fan. The cold air is generated by evaporating dry ice, which is placed in the reefer's cooling unit.

This type of container is ideal for transporting products such as ice cream and frozen foods.

Ethylene oxide reefer

Ethylene oxide reefers use a chemical refrigerant to cool the air inside the container.

This chemical is circulated through the reefer using a fan. And ethylene oxide is a very effective refrigerant and sterilising agent, but it can also be toxic.

For this reason, ethylene oxide is only used to transport products that need to be kept at extremely low temperatures, such as vaccines and lab samples.

Regardless of what kind of reefer container you are using, it is important to be careful when loading and unloading your goods.

Using proper temperature monitoring and control systems can help ensure that your products remain safe and fresh during their journey.

So, Which Reefer do You Need?

Now you're probably wondering which reefer you need for your cargo. Here's a simple table of the types of cargo and the typical reefer option that transports them. Plus the available sizes.

Note: This is intended as a guide only. For specific needs, it’s better to speak to our experts. Click the ‘Get a Quote’ option to find out more.


Cargo Reefer Type Sizes Available Enquire
Fruits Air-Cooled 20’, 40’ Get a Quote
Vegetables Air-Cooled 20’, 40’ Get a Quote
Meat Air-Cooled 20’, 40’ Get a Quote
Dairy Air-Cooled 20’, 40’ Get a Quote
Fish Air-Cooled 20’, 40’ Get a Quote
Perishable Foods Air-Cooled 20’, 40’ Get a Quote
Frozen Foods Water-Cooled 20’, 40’ Get a Quote
Iced products Water-Cooled, Dry-Cooled 20’, 40’ Get a Quote
Flowers/Plants Dry-Cooled 20’, 40’ Get a Quote
Pharma/Medical Water-Cooled 20’, 40’ Get a Quote
Chemicals Ethynol-Cooled 20’, 40’ Get a Quote
Electronics Air-Cooled, Dry-Cooled 20’, 40’ Get a Quote


What You Need to Consider

What You Need to Consider

Aside from allowing the pre-cooling time. There are a few other things to keep in mind when you call us about your reefer container needs.

These include the size of your shipment (of course), the temperature requirements for your goods, and whether or not you need to use a specialised loading dock or electrical supply.

When considering a refrigerated shipping container for sale or a refrigerated container for hire, these considerations apply.

How Are Reefers Powered?

Reefers are powered with either an external power source, such as a generator, or by using the power from the ship's main engine, truck, or train that they're being transported on.

If you are using an external power source for an ethylene oxide reefer, then it's important to make sure that it is properly ventilated so that the ethylene oxide does not build up and become dangerous.

When choosing a reefer for your goods, it's important to consider what type of cargo you will be shipping and what environmental conditions are appropriate for that cargo. The easiest option is to simply call us, and we can help figure out the details.

Reefers can be used for various types of goods, including perishable foods, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals. Whether you're shipping sensitive electronics or fragile flowers, there is a reefer that can do the job.

What happens if the power in the reefer turns off?

While in the dock, reefers are powered when in the warehouse. The truck's diesel systems will provide power during land transportation, such as on the back of a truck.

The reefer will be connected to the ship's onboard power supply when crossing the sea.

These systems are 100% reliable, but what happens when there is an issue with the ship's electrical system?

In most cases, reefers come equipped with independent generators to keep them running in the event of a power outage.

In addition to redundancy at the dock, many reefers also have internal battery backup systems.

Reefers are built with other types of redundancies to prevent power loss.

For example, most reefers have two compressors instead of one. If one compressor fails, the other can take over. Plus, many have onboard backup power supplies to keep running even if there is a power outage. They've thought of everything!

Where You Can Get a Reefer Container

Here at Tiger Containers, we’ve thought of everything!

So, by now, we hope you understand what reefers do, the available types, and which cooling type should suit your needs. Whether you need a reefer container for sale or a refrigerated container for hire, we can help.

All you need to do now is call your nearest branch based on your location, and our expert team will walk you through the rest.