Title: The Ultimate Guide to Refrigerated Shipping Containers: Everything You Need to Know

refrigerated shipping containers

‍Photo by 3345557 on Pixabay

## Introduction

refrigerated shipping containers

refrigerated shipping containers and storage of temperature-sensitive products. These insulated containers provide a controlled environment for perishable goods, ensuring they remain fresh and in prime condition throughout their journey. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the different types of refrigerated shipping containers, their features, benefits, and common problems. Whether you’re a restaurant owner, farmer, or in need of additional storage capacity, understanding the ins and outs of refrigerated containers is essential.

Types of Refrigerated Shipping Containers

One-Trip Containers

One-trip reefers are containers that have made just one trip across the ocean. These units are often marketed as “as good as new” and arrive in excellent condition. With reliable functionality and the ability to achieve extremely cold temperatures, one-trip containers are a popular choice for businesses seeking high-quality refrigerated storage.

Used Containers

Used refrigerated containers are a more affordable option for businesses with budget constraints. While they may have experienced wear and tear over their lifetime, these units should still be fully functional. However, it is crucial to inspect the unit before purchase to ensure the cargo doors open easily and the conditions are suitable for storing perishables.

Closed Reefer Containers

Closed refrigerated shipping containers feature an automatic heating and cooling system that runs exclusively on electricity. These units provide a reliable and controlled environment for temperature-sensitive goods, making them ideal for long-distance transportation or onsite storage.

Modified/Controlled Atmosphere (MA/CA) Containers

MA/CA containers use an air exchange system to maintain a specific atmosphere for the goods stored inside. These reefers are heavily insulated, ensuring optimal conditions for products that require a specific gas composition or humidity level to preserve their quality.

Automatic Fresh Air Management (AFAM) Containers

AFAM reefers utilize advanced technology to automatically regulate the air exchange within the unit, maintaining a constant temperature. Users have the ability to adjust controls to influence or extend the shelf life of the goods stored inside. These containers are perfect for businesses that require precise temperature control for their perishable products.

Refrigerated Container Features

Refrigerated shipping containers come with a range of features that make them unique and suitable for transporting and storing perishable goods.

1. Temperature Control

Reefers are equipped with the necessary refrigeration equipment to control temperatures ranging from -30°C to +30°C. Unlike standard shipping containers, refrigerated containers provide the perfect environment for storing frozen goods and perishable products.

2. Size Variability

While twenty-foot units are the most common size for refrigerated containers, other options such as forty-foot and forty-five-foot units are available. Additionally, high cube accommodations can be arranged to meet specific storage needs.

3. Material Durability

Refrigerated shipping containers are typically constructed from Corten Steel, also known as weathering steel. This material is corrosion-resistant, enabling reefers to be stacked alongside regular containers while maintaining high levels of strength.

4. Power Source

Reefer containers require an external power supply to provide cooling electricity. During sea transport, the containers receive electrical power from the ship. On land, they are powered by diesel generators known as “gen sets.” These containers typically require high voltage three power for their electricity service.

5. Refrigeration Process

Similar to household refrigerators, reefers use a thermodynamic process called the vapor-compression cycle. This process involves components such as a compressor, condenser, evaporator, and expansion valve to regulate and maintain the desired temperature inside the container.

6. Insulated Walls

Refrigerated containers have walls that consist of stainless steel panels sandwiched between layers of insulation. Unlike standard cargo containers, which conceal plumbing and electrical lines within the interior walls, reefers have electrical outlets and plumbing fixtures mounted on the walls to ensure efficient functionality.

7. Aluminum Floors

Unlike traditional containers with smooth metal or plywood floors, refrigerated containers feature aluminum floors. These floors are part of a system that includes a T-shaped profile, elevating the contents of the container to allow for proper circulation of cold air. The design also facilitates forklift traffic, making loading and unloading easier.

Refrigerated Container Safety Precautions

Operating a refrigerated container requires caution due to the ability to achieve extremely low temperatures. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and use personal protective equipment like safety glasses and gloves when handling these containers. Here are some additional safety precautions to keep in mind:

  • Keep hands, clothing, and tools away from the fan when it’s in motion.
  • Always work in a well-ventilated area to prevent the buildup of harmful gases.
  • Disconnect the power source before making any repairs or modifications.
  • In the event of a fire, use a CO2 extinguisher to extinguish the flames.
  • Never bypass any electrical safety devices installed in the container.

Common Problems with Refrigerated Containers

While refrigerated containers are designed to provide reliable temperature control, certain issues may arise over time. It is crucial to address these problems promptly to prevent disruptions in the storage or transportation of perishable goods. Here are some common problems associated with refrigerated containers:

1. Leakage

Leakage is a common issue in refrigerated containers and is usually caused by faulty seals around the container’s openings. These leaks can allow air to escape, compromising the container’s ability to maintain the desired temperature. Regular inspection and maintenance of the seals are necessary to ensure optimal performance.

2. Pressure Line Damage

Regular wear and tear can lead to damage in the pressure lines of refrigerated containers. These lines are essential for the proper functioning of the refrigeration system. Regular maintenance and inspection by a professional technician can help identify and resolve any pressure line issues before they cause significant disruptions.

3. Electrical Malfunctions

Electrical malfunctions can occur in refrigerated containers, especially after extended use. Issues with the electrical components can disrupt the cooling system, leading to fluctuations in temperature. Routine maintenance and inspections can help identify and rectify any electrical malfunctions to ensure consistent temperature control.

4. Weakened Refrigerants

Over time, refrigerants in refrigerated containers may weaken or deplete, affecting the container’s ability to maintain the desired temperature. Regular servicing and recharging of refrigerants can help restore the container’s cooling efficiency and ensure the preservation of perishable goods.


Refrigerated shipping containers have revolutionized the transportation and storage of temperature-sensitive products. With various types available, businesses can choose the most suitable option based on their needs and budget. Understanding the features, benefits, and common problems associated with refrigerated containers is crucial for ensuring the safe transport and storage of perishable goods. By following proper maintenance procedures and addressing any issues promptly, businesses can maximize the efficiency and longevity of their refrigerated containers, ultimately preserving the quality of their products.