Offshore Reefer

Minimizing Waste Using Digitalization in the Offshore Reefer Industry

Minimizing Waste Using Digitalization in the Offshore Reefer Industry

As a vital artery of the global intermodal supply chain, the offshore reefer container industry is expected to grow considerably in the coming years. 

This incremental growth will be driven by the growing demand for perishable goods, expansion of the offshore industry, and increasing global trade.

Undeniably, the offshore reefer industry impacts national economies, making regional products like fresh agricultural goods and seafood widely available worldwide. However, despite its benefits, it is plagued with challenges of food and energy waste. 

In fact, an unreliable and wasteful supply chain can result in costly financial losses, thereby negatively impacting entire regions. As such, it’s imperative for reefer industry players to devise a means of integrating digitalization into their processes to reduce waste. 

The problem of waste in the offshore reefer industry

According to a Worldwide Food Waste report by UNEP, there is a high degree of food waste and spoilage globally, with one-third of all food produced wasted. 

Unfortunately, offshore reefer cargo food losses contribute to this statistic, with 40-50% of farmers’ fruits and vegetable yield reaching the bin instead of end consumers’ refrigerators.

By the same token, the World Health Organisation estimates that up to half of all vaccines globally are wasted every year due to cold chain logistical challenges

Issues are only exacerbated by the fact that reefer containers must maintain precise temperature ranges from first pick-up to final drop-off. 

With this impact on food and medicines, suffice it to say, that achieving as little waste as possible is mission-critical to fuel a healthy world. 

So, how can the offshore industry reduce this waste and ensure all refrigerated cargo can get to end consumers intact? 

Types of waste generated

The key types of waste generated by the offshore reefer industry are:

  • Food waste: This occurs when perishable goods like fruits, fish, and vegetables, spoil or become unsuitable for human consumption during transportation.
  • Energy waste: This happens when reefer containers consume excessive energy in order to maintain the required temperature and climate conditions to preserve food. Additionally, improper temperature control, inefficient insulation and poor monitoring systems can contribute to energy waste in the reefer industry. 
  • Equipment waste: This is typically due to poor recycling of old reefers when they become damaged or reach the end of their lifespan. 
  • Packaging waste: This may occur due to poor disposal and recycling of materials like cardboard boxes, plastic wraps, and pallets used for securing perishable goods during transportation. 

The impact of waste on the environment and business operations

Waste in the offshore reefer industry has significant environmental and business implications. 

For example, waste may lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation within marine ecosystems due to improper disposal of spoiled cargo. 

From a business operation standpoint, waste may cause financial losses throughout the supply chain—eroding brand reputation and consumer trust. 

Relatedly, waste negatively impacts logistics efficiency, ultimately limiting the reefer industry’s economic sustainability and growth potential.

The role of digitization in minimizing waste

Digitization can aid in mitigating waste management within the offshore reefer industry in several ways. 

For example, GPS can be employed for real-time monitoring, giving visibility as to where shipments are at all times. This enhanced visibility can allow end-storage facilities to plan accordingly to ensure proper space for the refrigerated cargo.

GPS tracking systems can also help identify unforeseen issues with transportation and prevent food spoilage and losses. Relatedly, digitization via advanced data analytics can help to reduce energy waste by helping to optimize inventory management and identify operational inefficiencies. 

Digitization via automation of waste management processes, such as sorting and recycling, can help improve operational efficiency. Therefore, it promotes better waste management and supply chain processes. 

Digitization can also help remote container management teams that can handle preventative maintenance. It further helps to perform in-transit adjustments, reducing equipment waste and improving operational efficiency. 

Challenges and Solutions

One of the major challenges limiting the adoption of digitization for waste minimization within the offshore reefer industry is cost implication and return on investment (ROI) justification. 

To address this, reefer industry players need to be educated on the importance of improving operational efficiency whilst using eco-friendly reefer containers . Additionally, they may need to contribute to the environmental benefits by reducing their carbon footprint

Another digitization impediment is the fact that many companies still employ legacy systems, and lack the technical expertise to adopt digital systems. To rectify this, companies can invest in upskilling employees to effectively use digital technologies. 

Overall, to minimize food waste, the offshore reefer industry can explore digitization approaches to:

  • Implement better inventory management whilst also using environmentally friendly refrigerants.
  • Better optimized routing and scheduling to reduce transit times.
  • Enhance temperature monitoring and control systems to ensure optimal conditions for perishable goods.
  • Optimize container utilization, and adopt better insulation and cooling systems whilst exploring alternative energy sources for reefer containers.

Benefits of minimizing waste using digitization

Environmental benefits: Minimizing waste via digitization has multiple ecological sustainability benefits, for example: 

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint of resource-intensive disposal and waste management activities.
  • Conservation of natural resources and mitigating ecological ecosystem degradation.
  • Reducing public health risks from the poor disposal of pharmaceutical and food waste.

Operational benefits: Minimizing offshore reefer waste via digitization offers several operational efficiency benefits, such as:

  • Enabling real-time adjustments to temperature conditions to ensure goods maintain their quality throughout transit. 
  • Optimizing routes and schedules to minimize delays and increase on-time deliveries.
  • Improved communication, coordination, and collaboration via digital platforms. 

Financial benefits: The key financial benefits of minimizing offshore reefer waste via digitization mediums are:

  • Reduced financial losses associated with spoilage.
  • Enhanced supply chain operational and resource efficiency, which, in turn, results in cost savings and profitability. 
  • Protection from liability due to loss of valuable perishable goods, thereby safeguarding revenue.


Digitization offers transformative ways to reduce waste management in the offshore reefer industry via real-time monitoring, communication, and data analytics mediums. 

When used in a combinatory fashion, these tools offer a coordinated means to closely monitor refrigerated cargo conditions. Overall, it enhances the visibility to swiftly intervene in case of deviations from optimal conditions in order to prevent spoilage. 

This ability to make timely adjustments to temperature settings or to reroute to prioritize specific shipments can significantly reduce waste within the reefer industry. 

Furthermore, digitization can help augment operational efficiency, which, in turn, reduces the environmental impact of energy wastage.

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