What is Reefer Container and its Importance in Fruit and Vegetable Exports?

What is Reefer Container and its Importance in Fruit and Vegetable Exports?

Transporting fruits and vegetables poses numerous challenges for shippers, especially when considering reefer container temperature for fruits and vegetables. If you are shipping perishable goods, you must ensure that the product reaches its destination in optimal condition. The perishable nature of these goods demands careful consideration of factors such as temperature control, humidity levels, and ventilation during transportation. Shippers should maintain the freshness and quality of the product to minimize spoilage and maximize market value.

Here, Ocean freight services play a vital role in the export of perishable goods. Hence, you will require reefer containers, which are specialized containers that provide the necessary controlled environment to preserve fruits and vegetables.

What is a reefer container?

A reefer container, meaning a refrigerated container, is essential for maintaining the quality of perishable goods during transport. It is a shipping container equipped with a container cooling system and a reefer container power supply to regulate its internal environment. The reefer container refrigeration system can maintain specific temperature ranges, known as container reefer temperature, to cater to different types of cargo. For instance, the reefer container temperature for vegetables and the reefer container temperature for fruits are critical for preserving their freshness.

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Reefer container temperature range can vary depending on the cargo's requirements, which is monitored by a fruits temperature monitoring system. The 40ft reefer container is a common type among the different types of reefer containers used in refrigerated transportation. The container temperature during shipping is managed by advanced systems that ensure both shipping container cooling and reefer container humidity control. Additionally, reefer container ventilation and shipping container moisture control are vital components to prevent spoilage and maintain the quality of the goods. Understanding how does a reefer container work involves knowing these integrated systems that allow precise fruits temperature control systems and overall refrigerated container functionality.

Why choose a reefer container for fruits and vegetable exports?

Following, You will learn more about the features and benefits of reefer containers.

  • Temperature control

    Essentially, reefer containers excel in temperature control to transport temperature-sensitive goods safely. The refrigeration unit, powered by a dual-fuel genset, gives you exact temperature control. Which allows to prevent reefer containers from spoilage, bacterial growth, and degradation of sensitive products such as fruits, vegetables, pharmaceuticals, and electronics, which empowers you to keep your fruits cool or chilled vegetables.

  • Perishable Goods shipped in Reefer container with temperature control, Citrus Freight
  • Humidity control

    Reefer Container uses humidity control systems to regulate the relative humidity levels for different items of temperature-sensitive cargo. Dry air can lead to excessive moisture loss in perishable goods, while high humidity can cause mold, bacteria growth, and spoilage. By regulating the humidity within the refrigerated container, we can preserve the cargo's quality, texture, and shelf life for products like pharmaceuticals, electronics, and consumables susceptible to moisture damage.

  • Ventilation

    Ventilation is an important feature that enhances the versatility of reefer containers by maintaining uniform temperature distribution and preventing the buildup of heat or cold spots. This feature is particularly beneficial in controlling humidity levels and preventing condensation and moisture issues when transporting multiple types of goods. Ventilation aids in dividing the reefer container internally into compartments with separate temperature and humidity settings, allowing the transport of a diverse range of products in a single container.

How do reefer containers work?

Reefer containers work by circulating temperature-controlled air internally throughout the cargo space. Different types of cargo have specific airflow requirements, such as chilled cargo that needs ventilation for heat and gas removal. In contrast, frozen cargo requires air to flow through and around the commodity to remove gases like Carbon Dioxide and Ethylene.

Reefer containers are powered by generators attached to the container, which supply electricity to the cooling unit along with a backup generator for added reliability.

Refrigerated transport services play a crucial role in ensuring that perishable goods like fruits and vegetables reach their destinations in optimal condition. With the use of reefer containers and precise temperature control, these transport services can maintain the freshness and quality of the products throughout the journey. By offering temperature-controlled environments, refrigerated transport services ensure that the produce remains safe from spoilage and bacterial growth, maximizing its market value. This makes them an essential choice for exporters of perishable goods, including fruits and vegetables.

Different types of reefer containers

There are various types of reefer containers available:

  • Closed Reefer:

    The closed reefer is most commonly used. It features an integral front wall and a fully electric automatic cooling and heating unit. It provides reliable temperature control for various perishable products.

  • Modified/Controlled Atmosphere (MA/CA) Reefer:

    These containers have insulation and air exchange systems to maintain a constant atmosphere. By controlling oxygen, carbon dioxide, and ethylene levels, MA/CA reefers can reduce the product's deterioration rate and extend its shelf life.

  • Automatic Fresh Air Management (AFAM) Containers:

    AFAM containers are advanced units that automatically adjust the fresh air supply rate to regulate the composition of gases inside, which allows precise control over the environment, ensuring optimal conditions for the transported goods and extending their freshness.

  • Cryogenic Cooling Reefer:

    Cryogenic cooling reefers use cryogenically frozen gases such as Dry Ice or Liquid Nitrogen to keep perishable products at the desired temperature, Which is effective for goods that require extremely low temperatures.

  • Redundant Refrigeration Reefer:

    This type of reefer is designed for transporting highly valuable or temperature-sensitive cargo. Redundant refrigeration reefers incorporate both primary and secondary refrigeration units, which provides an extra layer of reliability, ensuring the shipment remains well protected even in the event of a primary unit failure.

  • Refrigerated or Cool Tank Containers:

    These specialized refrigerated containers are primarily used for transporting pharmaceuticals, milk, and other general-purpose liquids that require cooling. The tanks are cooled by circulating brine or synthetic oil around external coils, maintaining the desired temperature for the contents.

Know your Cargo

Shippers utilize reefer containers to transport a wide range of goods, each requiring specific conditions to ensure their freshness upon arrival. Hence, you should learn about your cargo to find the right type of reefer container. Reefer cargo can be categorised into three main groups:

  • Chilled Goods

    Chilled goods encompass a variety of perishable items such as fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, and dairy products that require very precise and low temperatures to prevent freezing, maintain their quality, ensure optimal freshness, and extend their shelf life while maintaining the commercial value of the goods. For example, products like asparagus and broccoli have high respiration rates and require specific temperature and humidity levels to maintain their quality and prolong their shelf life.

  • Frozen Goods

    Frozen goods like frozen meat, ice cream, and concentrates need to be stored and transported at temperatures of -20°C and below. It plays a crucial role in preventing spoilage and preserving flavour, aroma, texture, and overall quality. The freezing process inhibits the growth of disease-causing bacteria and microorganisms, slows down enzyme activity and oxidation, and ensures the products remain in a frozen solid state. Maintaining consistent freezing temperatures without fluctuations is essential to avoid product degradation, like mushy texture caused by repeated freezing and thawing.

  • Special/Miscellaneous Cargo

    Special and miscellaneous cargo refers to non-food products that also require specific temperature and humidity control during transportation. This category includes pharmaceuticals, drugs, tobacco, batteries, chemicals, and photographic film, among others. These goods often have unique handling requirements for packaging, stowage, temperature control, and humidity levels to maintain their integrity and effectiveness.

Right Way to Handle Reefer Cargo

You must handle your cargo properly at every step of the transportation process, from packing to stowage to processing. Negligence can adversely impact the shelf life, quality and appearance of the cargo. Here are some tips for handling cargo in right manner, including:

  • Pre-shipment Handling:

    Provide accurate product details, packing, and temperature requirements to freight forwarders. Ensure proper vessel and container selection. The freight forwarder usually handles the rest, such as identifying the right vessel and container, coordinating shipment dates, ensuring cargo size and weight are within legal limits, and ensuring the conditions are right.

  • Pre-cooling:

    Chill or freeze the goods before stuffing them into the container. Pre-cool the container to match the cargo temperature and prevent freezer burn.

  • Packaging and Stowing:

    Use sturdy packaging to protect against rough handling and weather. Proper stowage based on cargo type for ventilation and airflow When stowing cargo, there should be adequate ventilation and airflow. However, different cargo types require different stowage practices. Chilled fruits and vegetables need proper air supply through the packaging, while frozen goods must be stacked as solid blocks without gaps.

Different dimensions of reefer containers

In general, for exporting perishable goods, exporters use 20ft reefer containers and 40ft reefer containers.

The 20ft Reefer container is a specially designed refrigerated container. The Reefer container may be used to both chill and freeze items. Our Reefer shipping containers feature their own cooling system and are powered by the vessel.

A 40ft reefer high-cube container has a capacity of 28,350 kg. Because the reefer container can maintain a steady temperature, it is ideal for transporting perishable and frozen cargo.


Reefer containers have revolutionized international trade by enabling the safe and efficient transportation of perishable goods worldwide, maintaining quality, and meeting demand throughout the year. Citrus Freight has expertise in handling and transporting perishable goods and offers specialized solutions tailored to the unique requirements of citrus produce.