Offshore Reefer

Energy Efficiency in Offshore Reefer Containers

Energy Efficiency in Offshore Reefer Containers

As the demand for perishable products increases, so will the need for efficient transportation within supply chains. 

And as the world becomes more interconnected, the global supply chain has become increasingly complex, with perishable products requiring specialised handling and transport. 

This is where technology-driven offshore reefer containers come in, serving as a crucial link in the transport of perishable products like fruits, vegetables, and meat. 

However, many existing reefer containers still consume a significant amount of energy, which leads to operating high costs and environmental impact. 

As such, any mechanisms to improve energy efficiency in reefer containers may help reduce operating costs, carbon emissions, and environmental pollution. Thus, making transportation of perishable goods more environmentally sustainable and cost-effective.

The article aims to extrapolate and examine the main factors influencing energy efficiency in offshore reefer containers, as well as the best practices and technologies involved.  

What are offshore reefer containers, and why are they important for the global supply chain?

Offshore reefer containers are specialised shipping containers designed to transport perishable goods over long distances. They are equipped with refrigeration units that maintain a constant temperature and humidity inside the container, keeping the cargo fresh and in optimal condition during transit. 

They play a critical role in the global supply chain as they allow the transportation of perishable goods from one part of the world to another, ensuring a constant supply of fresh produce and other perishables all year.

Key factors affecting energy efficiency in offshore reefer containers

The energy efficiency of offshore reefer containers is mainly affected by several factors, including insulation and heat leakage control, ventilation, refrigeration technology, inverters and generators, routes taken, weather conditions, cargo type, and reefer design. Let’s unpack some of these factors, shall we?

Insulation and heat leakage control

Insulation is a crucial aspect of offshore reefer containers’ energy efficiency. A container with adequate insulation will reduce the amount of heat entering the container, thereby reducing the workload of the refrigeration unit. 


Proper ventilation is also vital to maintaining the optimal temperature inside the container, as it helps to circulate cool air evenly throughout the container, ensuring that all parts of the cargo are kept at the correct temperature.

Refrigeration technology

The refrigeration unit is the heart of the offshore reefer container, and the technology used has a significant impact on energy efficiency. Advanced refrigeration units are designed to consume less power while still maintaining the desired temperature.


Inverters and generators supply power to the refrigeration system of offshore reefer containers. In fact, advanced ones automatically modify power output based on the refrigeration unit’s requirements, resulting in decreased fuel consumption and fewer emissions.

Route taken

The energy efficiency of the offshore reefer container can also depend on the shipping vessel’s route. In practice, longer routes often result in higher fuel consumption, while routes that encounter rough weather conditions may require the refrigeration unit to work harder to maintain the desired temperature.

Weather conditions

As mentioned above, weather conditions also affect the energy efficiency of offshore reefer containers. High temperatures increase the workload on the refrigeration unit, while extreme cold can cause the container’s cargo to freeze, resulting in damage to the product.

Cargo type

Also affecting offshore reefer containers’ energy efficiency is the cargo being conveyed. Various products have varying temperature requirements, so the refrigeration unit must be adjusted accordingly. Fresh fruits and vegetables, for instance, may require a slightly higher temperature than frozen meats.

Reefer design

The design of the offshore reefer container itself can also impact energy efficiency. Advanced designs incorporate insulation materials that reduce heat leakage and also significantly reduce CO2 emissions. 

On the other hand, enhanced ventilation systems ensure that cool air is evenly distributed throughout the container. This, in turn, appreciably reduces the container’s overall energy consumption. 

Customs clearance

Photo by Tom Fisk

Best practices and technologies for improving energy efficiency in offshore reefer containers

Energy efficiency is a vital factor in the design and operation of reefer containers, as it impacts the environmental impact and operating costs of the reefer container.

It is estimated that approximately 15% of global fossil fuel energy is utilised in the refrigerated transport sector. 

Furthermore, a 2021 research paper found that modern reefer containers are equipped with advanced insulation materials and energy-efficient refrigeration systems manifest significantly improved energy efficiency compared to older models.

Now that we have a good understanding of the key factors affecting energy efficiency in offshore reefer containers, let’s discuss some of the best practices and technologies that can be employed to improve energy efficiency.

Pre-trip inspections

Before loading cargo, it is crucial to conduct a thorough pre-trip inspection of the container to ensure that it’s in functional working order. This includes thoroughly checking the insulation, seals, and refrigeration unit for any damage or leaks to improve energy efficiency and reduce cargo spoilage.

Automated temperature management

Automated temperature management systems can significantly improve energy efficiency by reducing the need for manual adjustments. These systems use sensors to monitor the temperature inside the container and adjust the refrigeration unit accordingly to maintain a consistent temperature. Thus, reducing energy consumption and preserving cargo quality.

Container positioning

Proper positioning of the container can also impact energy efficiency. For example, placing the container in a shaded area can help reduce the amount of heat it absorbs from the sun. This, in turn, reduces the amount of energy required to maintain the desired temperature inside the container.

Route optimisation

By choosing the most efficient transport route, the time and energy spent on the journey is greatly reduced, as are the shipping costs. This is beneficial to both the environment and the pocketbook. 

Furthermore, this is a great way to ensure that goods and services move in a timely and efficient manner. In addition, having an efficient transport route can help improve customer satisfaction, as the goods and services will arrive faster.

Also read: 

What is Offshore Reefer Container Ventilation & Why You Need It 

Why Remote Temperature Monitoring is Essential for Offshore Reefer Containers

Innovative technologies and solutions for improving energy efficiency

The development of innovative sustainability technologies is an area of growing interest globally. More organisations are researching how to exploit alternative energy sources, like solar or wind power, to reduce reliance on traditional diesel generators. 

In addition, more offshore reefer companies are exploring the employment of advanced insulation materials, and smart temperature and humidity controls, to develop more efficient refrigeration systems, which will benefit both the industry and the environment.

So, in addition to best practices, here are several innovative technologies and solutions that can be deployed to improve energy efficiency in offshore reefer containers.

Use of solar panels on shipping vessels

One promising technology is the use of solar panels on shipping vessels to power the refrigeration units of offshore reefer containers. By harnessing the sun’s power, energy consumption can be reduced and carbon emissions minimised. While this technology is still in its infancy, it has vast potential to revolutionise the shipping industry and make it more sustainable.

Smart refrigeration systems

Another innovative solution is smart refrigeration systems with advanced sensors and algorithms to optimise the performance of the refrigeration unit. These smart systems automatically adjust the cooling process in real-time to maintain the desired temperature while minimising energy consumption by continuously monitoring the container environment.

Modern offshore reefer containers that are energy efficient

Finally, let’s take a look at some modern offshore reefer containers that are designed to be energy efficient.


The Icewave container is a state-of-the-art reefer container that boasts some impressive energy-saving features. 

For example, it utilises vacuum insulation panels to reduce heat transfer and improve thermal efficiency. It also features a low-energy refrigeration system and a flexible power source that can run on either the ship’s generator or shore-based electricity, further lowering energy consumption.

The underlying technology of the Icewave exploits an advanced microprocessor controller unit that integrates solid-state electronics and enormous processing power, allowing it to accurately maintain the ideal refrigeration cycle.

This container is considered the best in its class. Its base frame is composed of a corrugated-type steel base frame and a sectional aluminium floor rail with insulation. Furthermore, the container’s side lining panels are made of polypropylene material for maximum strength and a reduced risk of foam delamination. 

Additionally, the insulation material utilised in the reefer container is patented environmentally friendly foam insulation, meeting tomorrow’s environmental requirements.


Another energy-efficient reefer container is the Icestorm, which features a patented air circulation system that provides consistent temperature control while minimising energy consumption. 

It also possesses an energy-efficient refrigeration system powered by an advanced microprocessor controller. Its base frame is also composed of a corrugated-type steel base frame and a sectional aluminium floor rail with insulation. 

The T-bor floor is made of aluminium and designed to optimise the airflow in the container. This new generation of container side lining panels (walls) is made up of polypropylene material. 

Overall, this unique material ensures maximum strength with a reduced risk of foam delamination. In fact, the insulation material utilised in the reefer container is patented environment-friendly foam insulation, meeting future environmental standards and requirements.


Oftentimes, the efficiency of the cold chain is far from ideal, leading to increased food waste and energy consumption. As such, energy efficiency is an important consideration for anyone involved in the shipping of perishable goods.

By understanding the key factors that affect energy efficiency and implementing best practices and innovative technologies, it is possible to reduce energy consumption, save money, and reduce the environmental impact of the global supply chain. 

And as the shipping industry continues to modernise, one of the core focuses of offshore reefer providers will be to find ways to increase sustainability and energy efficiency. 

Looking to the future, ongoing research into the use of natural refrigerants, like CO2 and ammonia, are being researched to reduce the energy required to maintain the required temperature. 

Wind power is another alternative energy source that is being explored, with some manufacturers experimenting with reefer containers that can generate power from onboard wind turbines.  

Fortunately, the state-of-the-art Icewave and Icestorm reefer containers have been designed with advanced technologies that allow them to use less energy, making them more energy-efficient than anything in the market. Furthermore, these containers are designed to be more resistant to corrosion and wear, making them more durable and cost-effective over time. 

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