How to Ship Perishable Goods In Reefer Container

How to Ship Perishable Goods In Reefer Container

In the world of shipping containers, not every type is right for every job. Different containers have different jobs. This guide talks about reefer containers—special ones with temperature control. They're great for safely shipping things that can spoil, like fruits, vegetables , and meat .

Now, let's switch to how online apps and tools in e-commerce have changed the game for importing and exporting food. With a simple click, goods can move across borders. But the challenge is making sure that perishable products arrive in top-notch condition. This is where refrigerated containers , one of the six types used in shipping, become important. They create a safe space, which is crucial for shipping perishable products and ensuring they reach their destination without any problems. Join us as we explore why refrigerated containers matter in e-commerce, making it easy to deliver freshness worldwide with just a click.

What is a Reefer Container?

A reefer container is a specialized type of shipping container designed to maintain a consistent, cool temperature. It achieves this by combining insulation with a cooling system powered by electricity. This makes it ideal for transporting products that need specific temperature conditions. Think of it as a big refrigerator on the move. Reefer containers are capable of maintaining temperatures within a range, usually between -25°C and +30°C. They find application not only in transporting fresh produce but also play a crucial role in disaster management and various other scenarios where controlled cold storage is essential.

Composition of a reefer unit:

A reefer container consists of various components that work together to create a controlled environment for transporting temperature-sensitive cargo . At the front, there's a controller unit allowing adjustments to temperature, ventilation, and humidity settings tailored to specific cargo types.

Key Components of a Reefer Container:

1. Genset: This is the power source for the reefer unit. Usually, it's a dual-powered generator set that can run on fuel or the power unit on a ship. Gensets can be either clip-on, attached to the container's side, or underslung, placed on the chassis of a truck or another container.

2. Humidity Control: Essential for maintaining optimal conditions, humidity control ensures the right moisture levels for perishables, electronics, or pharmaceutical products.

3. Air Temperature Control: Reefer containers are typically air-cooled, though some can be water-cooled. They incorporate air cooler fans to remove heat, a compressor unit, a condenser to cool the air, and an evaporator to keep the cargo dry.

4. Controller Unit: Located at the front, the controller unit allows precise adjustments to temperature, ventilation, and humidity settings. It serves as the brain of the reefer container, ensuring that the cargo remains in the desired condition throughout the journey.

5. Power Plug Cable: Fitted with a cable, the reefer container can be plugged into a vessel, a terminal, or the genset on a truck. This cable ensures a continuous and reliable power supply to the container.

These components work in tandem, enabling reefer containers to maintain a temperature range of -20 to 30 degrees Celsius. This makes them well-suited for transporting goods that require a carefully controlled environment to preserve their quality during transit.

How does a reefer container work?

Reefer containers operate on the principle of convection, efficiently managing the temperature inside to preserve cargo integrity. The process begins with warm air inside the container being drawn into the refrigeration unit, where two fans cool it down. These fans not only cool the air but also enhance the downward flow, making the system more effective.

The cooled air is then directed behind a vertical baffle on the interior front wall, passing under the cargo, and entering the main container space through ventilation slots in the T-bar floor. This circulating air maintains the cargo at the desired temperature, regulated by a thermostat.

As the air warms, it naturally rises and is drawn back to the front of the reefer, where it undergoes cooling once again through the refrigeration unit. This cycle continues, ensuring that the air inside remains closer to the target temperature than the external air.

For cargo like vegetables, fruits, and meat that require fresh air, the system is designed to draw in external air. Fruits, in particular, undergo metabolic processes, releasing carbon dioxide, moisture, heat, and ethylene gas while consuming oxygen. To prevent oxygen depletion and maintain optimal conditions, fresh air is regularly introduced, creating a well-controlled environment that safeguards the quality of the cargo during transportation.

Benefits of Shipping Perishable Products Using Reefer Containers:

Choosing to ship perishable products via a reefer container offers several advantages:

1. Temperature Control: Reefer containers provide precise temperature control, ensuring that perishable goods remain at the required temperature throughout the journey. This is crucial for products like fruits, vegetables, and meats that can spoil if exposed to temperature variations.

2. Extended Shelf Life: The controlled environment inside a reefer container helps extend the shelf life of perishable products. This is beneficial for maintaining the freshness and quality of goods, reducing the risk of spoilage.

3. Versatility: Reefer containers are versatile and can accommodate a wide range of perishable items, from fruits and vegetables to pharmaceuticals and other temperature-sensitive products.

4. Global Reach: Reefer containers enable the transportation of perishable goods across long distances, facilitating global trade in fresh produce and allowing consumers worldwide access to a variety of products.

5. Reduced Spoilage and Waste: By maintaining optimal temperature and humidity levels, reefer containers minimize the risk of spoilage during transit. This, in turn, helps reduce waste and ensures that a higher percentage of the shipped goods reach their destination in good condition.

6. Compliance with Regulations: Many perishable products are subject to strict regulations regarding temperature control during transportation. Using reefer containers helps businesses comply with these regulations, avoiding potential penalties and ensuring the integrity of the products.

7. Market Expansion: Reefer shipping enables businesses to expand their market reach by accessing consumers in different regions. This is particularly beneficial for industries that rely on the export of perishable goods.

8. Year-Round Availability: Reefer containers enable the year-round availability of seasonal and perishable products, allowing consumers to enjoy fresh produce even when it's out of season in their local region.

Best practices for Reefer Shipping: What to Do and What to Avoid

Reefer shipping has some important rules to make sure goods stay fresh and safe during the journey.

Here's what you should do and what to avoid:


Pack Tight: Make sure the cargo is packed tightly and doesn't move around.

Right Temperature: Set the reefer at the right temperature and humidity for what you're shipping.

Pre-cool if needed: If necessary, cool down the cargo before putting it in the reefer.

Good Ventilation: Make sure there's enough air circulation and the settings are correct.

Get Insurance: It's a good idea to insure your cargo because reefers can have more issues than regular containers.


Avoid overloading: Don't put cargo above the marked red line inside the container.

Don't Go Too Far: Keep the cargo within the marked T-floor area; don't go past it.

No Blocking Airflow: Avoid packing things too tightly so air can still move around.

Skip Pre-cooling Unnecessarily: If the reefer isn't in a cold place, don't cool it down before loading.

No Gaps: Make sure there are no gaps between pallets and the door.

And always, don't miss the shipping deadlines, especially for things that can go bad quickly. Following these simple rules helps keep your goods in good shape during reefer shipping.


To wrap it up, knowing the types of reefer containers is vital for businesses shipping perishable items. Whether you go for the standard Closed Reefer, the upgraded Modified/Controlled Atmosphere (MA/CA), or the advanced Automatic Fresh Air Management Containers (AFAM), the right choice depends on your cargo's specific needs.

For a reliable shipping partner, turn to Citrus Freight . We offer various reefer container options. When you're ready to ship, request a quote from Citrus Freight . In a few clicks, you'll get a personalized quotation for your shipping needs and secure on-time delivery to your desired location. Your shipment is in good hands with Citrus Freight's top-notch reefer containers and detailed ocean freight services.