22 January 18

Everything You Should Know About Reefer Shipping

MCI_Reefer_Container_600_400_84_c1We round up the key facts you need to know about the reefer shipping industry, including developments over time, the top manufacturers, and where the sector is heading next. 

The term ‘reefer’ is used in shipping to refer to refrigerated ships and refrigerated shipping containers that transport perishable commodities by sea.

Temperature-controlled transportation is used for perishables such as fruit, meat, fish, vegetables, and dairy products.

A reefer ship is a containership that exclusively carries refrigerated containers.

However, reefer ships were the predominant mode of transporting goods in controlled conditions before the advent of reefer containers.

Reefer ships differ from conventional container ships in their size, design, power generation and electrical distribution equipment.

The key difference is that they are smaller and require provisions made for powering each container’s cooling system

Reefer ships are generally side-door vessels which have water-tight ports on the ship’s hull that open into a cargo hold.

Inside these access ports or side doors, pallet lifts or another series of conveyors bring the cargo to the respective decks.

This special design makes the vessels particularly well suited for inclement weather operations as the tops of the cargo holds are always closed against rain and sun.

Inside reefer ships food and other perishable items sit on pallets in a refrigerated hold, and are delivered to a cold storage facility on arrival at a port.

Reefer containers are, simply put, large fridges carried by containerships.

Each container has its own individual refrigerated unit.

These containers are nearly always twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) — the standard size for cargo containers loaded by containerships. The additional insulation and the power plant results in a 40-foot reefer costing around six times more than a regular container. Because reefer containers are self-contained refrigerated units, they are often able to bypass cold storage on arrival at a destination. And, because of the ease in loading and unloading cargo, many containerships are now being built or redesigned to carry refrigerated containers. Reefer containers are, simply put, large fridges carried by containerships.

Each container has its own individual refrigerated unit.

These containers are nearly always twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) — the standard size for cargo containers loaded by containerships. The additional insulation and the power plant results in a 40-foot reefer costing around six times more than a regular container. Because reefer containers are self-contained refrigerated units, they are often able to bypass cold storage on arrival at a destination. And, because of the ease in loading and unloading cargo, many containerships are now being built or redesigned to carry refrigerated containers.

Top Industry Developments:

1960s:

First refrigerated marine containers came into use based upon converted truck units

1975:

Maersk Line received the first reefers with integrated cooling units

2013:

In 2013, 72% of the refrigerated transport capacity in maritime shipping was containerised, growth from 33% in 1980.

2014:

The share of the conventional or specialist reefer segment fell from 60% in 2000 to an estimated 26% in 2014.

This reflects the core trend of the last few years: the refrigerated box taking over from the conventional reefer ship. This has resulted in more than half of all conventional reefer vessels scrapped since 2000.

2015:

Seaborne transport of fresh produce in conventional reefer ships and in refrigerated boxes is estimated to have reached more than 95.7 million tonnes.

However, the maritime transport of fresh produce only accounts for 2.7% of the world seaborne trade of dry cargoes of all kinds.

2017:

Future growth for the seaborne perishable trade predicted to expand by 4% to 5% annually until 2020.

Changes in refrigerants and regulation

Typically a reefer will have an integral refrigeration unit that will rely on external power from electrical power points (reefer points) at a land-based site, a container ship or on a quay.

Generally, air cooling systems are used that remove heat generated by the reefers. Water cooling systems are also used. This system can be used if the reefer is stored below deck on a vessel without adequate ventilation to remove the heat generated. Another refrigeration system is sometimes used when the journey time is short or during a period when there is a total loss refrigeration.

This involves the use of frozen carbon dioxide ice or sometimes liquid nitrogen for cooling. The cryogenically frozen gas slowly evaporates and cools the container and is vented from it. Full-size intermodal containers equipped with cryogenic systems can maintain their temperature for the 30 days needed for sea transport. Recent years have seen various new technologies released by shipping container manufacturers to better address the cooling requirements of specific cargo. There has been a particular focus on controlled atmosphere (CA) technology. Many innovations in areas such as energy efficiency are occurring as the result of increased regulation. HFC refrigerants in particular have been identified as a major contributor to global warming. Movement towards more environmentally sustainable refrigerants is rapidly gaining pace within the container reefer industry. In 2015, European Union’s F-Gas regulation set out a timetable to cut the amount of CO2 contributing to global warming by 2030 by half.

Bans have also been proposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Significant New Alternatives Policy.

This active oxygen removal system delays the ripening, ageing and decay of perishables to preserve their quality, taste and value during long-distance transportation.

Source: Porttechnology 

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