If you are in the business of shipping perishable goods, you are well aware of how essential it is to protect the integrity of your products and ensure that they stay safe at all times during the shipping process.
Whether you are transporting perishable foods, beverages, medications, or other temperature-sensitive items, you need a dependable and effective solution to maintain the freshness and integrity of your goods.
Using offshore reefer containers is among the most effective methods available for transporting perishable products.
What are offshore reefer containers?
Offshore reefer containers are essentially large refrigerators installed on a shipping container chassis, running on diesel or electric generators. These are equipped with a number of features that allow them to maintain a specific temperature range for an extended period of time.
A reefer’s body is well insulated, and is underpinned by a powerful refrigeration unit, ventilation, temperature monitoring, and a global positioning system.
Key features of offshore reefer containers
Offshore reefer containers come in various sizes and configurations to meet the needs of different shippers and receivers.
Some of the common sizes are 10 ft, 20 ft, and 40 ft offshore reefer containers. The capacity of these containers can range from 10 to 67 cubic metres, depending on the size and layout.
Some of the key features of offshore reefer containers are:
- Temperature regulation: The interior of an offshore reefer container can be kept at a constant temperature ranging from -25 degrees Celsius to +25 degrees Celsius, depending on the type of cargo being transported. The temperature can be manually or automatically adjusted with a thermostat. The refrigeration units can use different types of refrigerants, such as R134a or R404a.
- Ventilation control: Offshore reefer containers control the airflow and humidity inside the container to suit the needs of different products using fans or blowers to circulate air inside the container. The ventilation systems can also adjust the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels inside the container by using valves or scrubbers.
- GPS tracking: Offshore reefer containers possess GPS tracking devices that transmit the location, speed, direction, and other data of the container to a central server or a mobile device. Thereby, allowing shippers and receivers to track their cargo and ensure its security.
- Remote monitoring: Offshore reefer containers typically maintain sensors that can measure the temperature, humidity, pressure, vibration, shock, tilt, door status, and other parameters of the container in real-time. The data can be sent to a central server or a mobile device via satellite or cellular networks. This allows shippers and receivers to monitor their cargo and ensure its quality.
- Certification: Offshore reefer containers have to comply with international standards and regulations for offshore transportation. Some of these standards include DNV 2.7-1, EN 12079 , IMO/MSC Circular 860 etc. For the most part, these standards ensure that offshore reefer containers are safe, durable, and reliable in harsh offshore environments.
Benefits of offshore reefer containers
Offshore reefer containers offer several benefits for the shipping of perishable goods. Let’s explore some of the advantages:
- Enhanced product shelf life: The precise temperature control and ventilation features of offshore reefer containers significantly extend the shelf life of perishable goods. This allows producers, distributors, and retailers to reach distant markets without compromising the quality and freshness of their products.
- Maintaining product integrity: Temperature-sensitive goods, such as pharmaceuticals, require strict adherence to temperature conditions to maintain their efficacy. Offshore reefer containers provide a controlled environment throughout the journey, ensuring the integrity and potency of pharmaceutical products.
- Minimised spoilage and losses: By maintaining the optimal temperature and humidity levels, reefer containers minimise the risk of spoilage and loss of perishable goods. This leads to cost savings for businesses and reduces food waste, contributing to a more sustainable supply chain.
- Expanded market reach: Offshore reefer containers enable businesses to access global markets and serve customers in distant locations. The ability to transport perishable goods across long distances allows for the expansion of market reach and the exploration of new business opportunities.
- Regulatory compliance: Many perishable products are subject to regulatory standards and requirements during transportation. Offshore reefer containers are designed to meet these regulations, ensuring compliance with safety and quality standards.
Use of offshore reefer containers in different industries
Since we have highlighted some of the notable benefits of using reefers, let’s explore the specific applications of these offshore containers across different industries.
1. Offshore reefer containers in the food and beverage industry
The food and beverage industry is one of the largest consumers of offshore reefer containers. This industry encompasses as meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, fruits, cheese, vegetables, beverages, confectionery, bakery, etc.
Offshore reefer containers are essential for this industry because they can ensure food safety and quality by preventing bacterial growth, enzymatic reactions, oxidation, dehydration, or freezing damage.
Reefers also help manufacturers comply with strict regulations and standards for food transportation, such as the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system.
Offshore reefer containers can also help the food and beverage industry expand its market reach and competitiveness by enabling players to easily ship their products to remote or offshore locations, such as oil and gas rigs, offshore wind farms, or island resorts.
2. Offshore reefer containers in the pharmaceutical industry
In the pharmaceutical industry, the transportation of temperature-sensitive drugs and vaccines requires stringent temperature control and product integrity. Offshore reefer containers provide a reliable solution to maintaining the necessary temperature conditions throughout the logistics chain.
These containers offer precise temperature control, ensuring that pharmaceutical products remain within their specified temperature range even during long-haul journeys.
3. Offshore reefer containers in the meat and seafood industry
The meat and seafood industry heavily relies on offshore reefer containers to transport perishable products in pristine condition. These containers maintain the required low temperatures, preventing spoilage and bacterial growth.
By ensuring the freshness and safety of meat and seafood during transport, reefer containers help maintain the quality and taste that consumers expect.
4. Offshore reefer containers to transport fruits and vegetables
The transportation of fruits and vegetables requires specialised care to preserve their freshness and nutritional value, and offshore reefer containers offer the optimal environment by maintaining the ideal temperature, humidity, and ventilation conditions.
These containers protect delicate produce from external factors, ensuring that they reach their destination in prime condition.
5. Offshore reefer containers in the floral industry
The floral industry heavily relies on offshore reefer containers to preserve the beauty and freshness of flowers during transportation.
Offshore reefers effectively maintain the optimal temperature and humidity levels, ensuring that flowers retain their vibrant colours and remain in the desired condition.
By using these containers, floral businesses can extend the shelf life of their products and cater to international markets more efficiently.
Challenges and solutions
While offshore reefer containers offer numerous benefits for the transportation of perishable goods, there are certain challenges that need to be addressed. Let’s explore these challenges and the solutions available:
- Power supply interruptions: One of the primary challenges faced when using offshore reefer containers is the potential for power supply interruptions. Reefer refrigeration systems rely on a continuous power source to maintain the desired temperature.
However, in some cases, power disruptions may occur during transportation. To overcome this challenge, shipping companies can equip their reefer containers with backup power systems, such as diesel generators or battery-powered units.
These backup systems ensure that the temperature is maintained even during power outages, minimising the risk of spoilage.
- Maintenance requirements: Another overarching challenge is the regular maintenance and servicing of offshore reefer containers. The refrigeration systems, ventilation controls, and other components require routine inspections and upkeep to ensure optimal performance.
As such, shipping companies should establish maintenance schedules and work closely with experienced technicians to conduct regular checks, repairs, and servicing. This proactive approach helps identify and address any potential issues before they escalate, ensuring the reliability of the containers.
- Temperature fluctuations: Despite the advanced temperature control capabilities of offshore reefer containers, there is still a possibility of temperature fluctuations during transportation. Factors such as external weather conditions, loading and unloading processes, and container placement can impact the internal temperature.
To mitigate this technical challenge, it is essential to optimise loading and stowage procedures, ensuring proper airflow and minimising temperature variations. Additionally, using temperature data loggers and monitoring systems can help track and address any deviations, allowing for prompt corrective actions.
- Remote monitoring and control: Managing offshore reefer containers across different locations can present logistical challenges.
Ensuring real-time visibility and control over the container’s temperature, humidity, and GPS tracking is mission-critical. Shipping companies can leverage advancements in technology to implement remote monitoring and control systems.
These systems enable real-time monitoring of container conditions, alerts for temperature deviations, and the ability to adjust settings remotely. By implementing such solutions, shipping companies can proactively address any issues and maintain the integrity of perishable goods throughout the transportation process.
- Compliance with regulations: Compliance with regulatory standards and requirements is a critical aspect of shipping perishable goods. Different industries, such as food, pharmaceuticals, and seafood, have specific regulations governing the transportation of their products.
Shipping companies must stay updated on these regulations and ensure that their offshore reefer containers meet the necessary standards. This includes adherence to temperature control guidelines, maintaining proper documentation, and implementing quality management systems. By complying with regulations, shipping companies can meet the expectations of their clients and avoid potential legal and reputational issues.
In conclusion, offshore reefer containers are a vital component of the global supply chain for industries dealing with perishable goods. Their ability to maintain precise temperature control, regulate ventilation, and ensure product integrity makes them indispensable for the transportation of food, pharmaceuticals, meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
By utilising offshore reefer containers, businesses can expand their market reach, reduce product losses, and deliver high-quality perishable goods to customers around the world.
Check out the range of DNV-certified offshore reefer containers available at MGS Icestorm!
A graduate (Business) from KDU, Jason Tan, is the current Business Director (Sales) for MGS Icestorm and has been associated with the company for the past 10 years.
With over 13 years in the shipping industry, he has had a significant contribution to Malaysia’s oil and gas industry in the engine and boat supply sector.
His expertise includes managing offshore catering business, offshore reefer containers, AI technology, offshore gas tanks, A60 pressurized cabins, etc. His contributions have helped establish MGS, in partnership (joint venture) with Thermo King and Honeywell to produce state of art Offshore Reefer Container products.