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The Ultimate Guide to Reefer Shipping


Reefers are without a doubt one of the most important types of containers since they transport food, medicines, and items that need to be kept at a specific temperature. In this guide, we will cover everything there is to know about reefer shipping.


What Is a Reefer Ship/ Refrigerated Ship?

 A ship on the open waters with cargo containers on it

Credit: Envato Elements/ EdVal


Reefer ships or refrigerated ships are special sorts of cargo ships that exclusively carry refrigerated containers also known as reefer containers. They are used to carry commodities that must stay chilled the entire time they are being transported.

Reefer ships are larger, more efficient, and have different electrical generation and distribution systems than conventional container ships. They are also smaller in size and need cooling systems in each container.


What Are Reefer Containers?

 An open refrigerated container ready to be loaded

Credit: MT Container GmbH


Reefer containers are large refrigerators used to transport perishable cargo like fruits, meat, fish, and vegetables. They are also used to transport non-perishable commodities like pharmaceuticals, flowers, and more.

A reefer or refrigerated container typically operates between -30°C and +30°C. Specialized refrigerators called super freezers are capable of withstanding temperatures as low as -70 °C.


Types of Reefer Containers

 A container depot on land with a huge container lift

Credit: Envato Elements/ cavanimages


There are three main types of reefer containers:


1) Closed Reefer


The most typical kind of reefer is the closed reefer. This kind of reefer has an integrated front wall and electrical distribution equipment that is capable of automatic cooling and heating.


2) Modified/ Controlled Atmosphere (MA/CA) Reefer Containers


Modified/Controlled atmosphere reefer containers maintain an ideal atmosphere in balance with the pace of product deterioration by replacing lost oxygen with new air through an air exchange system.


3) Automatic Fresh Air Management Containers (AFAM)


The most advanced reefer containers on the market right now are AFAM containers, which are essentially an updated version of MA/CA containers. This kind of container can precisely control oxygen and carbon dioxide levels by adjusting the fresh air exchange rate using a variety of sensors, effectively extending the shelf life of the reefer cargo inside.


How Does a Reefer Container Prevent Food From Going Bad?

 Some old and moldy food that is turning green and orange

Credit: Envato Elements/ gcpics


Ever wondered how reefer ships ensure that the refrigerated cargo is kept in top condition until it gets to its destination? Scroll below to find out.


1) Reefer Containers Produce a Constant and Uniform Flow of Air


Reefer or refrigerated shipping containers generate an even, continuous flow of air during the entire voyage that is strong enough to guarantee a flawless air-to-goods exchange. Through specialized T-shaped decking, the containers' bottoms are designed to spread cold air from the flooring. It's important to remember that a reefer's purpose is to preserve the pre-cooled cargo's temperature rather than to lower it.


2) Reefer Containers Use Gensets


Genset or generator sets supply electricity to the refrigeration unit, allowing it to run. A reefer is frequently linked to a power supply on ships. However, Gensets offer a backup power supply for highly delicate goods that could rot outside of a temperature range.


3) Reefer Container Ships Have Ventilation Systems


In addition to temperature control, reefer cargo containers also have ventilation systems. Fruits, vegetables, and plants all release CO2, water, heat, and ethylene. If these are left in place, the cargo may be ruined since they would ripen, age, and develop an undesirable flavor. As a result, reefers are ventilated using fresh air.


4) Reefers Use Dehumidification Systems and Drainage Systems


Reefer ships control moisture levels via a dehumidification system to avoid products from spoiling. In addition to this, they also have an effective drainage system. Water is a breeding ground for germs. The container's drain is used to get rid of any water that has accumulated.


What Can You Do To Stop Your Cargo From Spoiling?

 a Nice Packs ice pack with silver outer ready to be used

Credit: Nice Packs


As was already mentioned, a reefer container maintains the cargo's pre-cooled temperature; however, the temperature of the cargo cannot be decreased. Therefore, your cargo may end up spoiling if you don't have the proper tools in place to pre-cool it. Use these techniques to make sure your shipment reaches its destination securely:


1) Use Dry Ice Packs


Regular ice melts quickly and leaves behind a sloppy mess. In addition to ruining your product, this water will function as a breeding ground for germs.

Instead of ice cubes, use a dry ice pack. The Nice Pack dry ice packs are designed to melt without creating a watery mess. They last a lot longer and are also far cooler than regular ice.


2) Use Insulated Containers


Invest in a sturdy, insulated styrofoam container or box for products that need to be kept refrigerated or frozen. Nice Packs is the place to go if you need a dependable insulated container at a reasonable cost. They are made of materials of the highest quality and are guaranteed to preserve your products.


3) Use Thermal Liners


If you don't want to spend money on insulated containers, you can try using thermal liners. They will provide almost the same level of security as an insulated container and also add an extra layer of cushioning to your products.




Reefer shipping is crucial to the cold storage supply chain. It is unquestionably a secure and safe option to transfer your temperature-sensitive goods internationally. However, if your products are not adequately pre-cooled, they are at risk of spoiling. To guarantee that your shipment reaches its destination safely, use the above methods.


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