Offshore Reefer Container Temperature Range: How Warm/Cold Can It Get?
Reefer containers (or simply reefers) are refrigerated shipping containers that can be easily adjusted to temperatures between -35 °C and +15 °C. While the fastest way to transport fresh meat is via air transportation, it is still the most expensive.
It essentially requires transferring meat from a packing plant to a cold storage facility where shipments are brought to the “chilled” temperature range (0 to -2 Celsius) and placed into air transport containers.
Fortunately, reefers offer a much cheaper alternative with their cold storage capabilities.
Reefer container temperature requirements for perishable goods
Fruits and Vegetables
Shipping fresh fruits and vegetables in a reefer is a risk-filled but unavoidable proposition for most traders and wholesalers everywhere.
This is because most types of fresh produce are volatile products that, if not held at the right temperature, not properly humidified or adequately ventilated, will arrive damaged at their destination.
That being said, most fresh fruit can travel great distances when one understands the correct temperatures to store them within a reefer. For example:
- Apples: -1 to 4 C (30-40 F)
- Strawberries: Approx 0 C (32 F)
- Peaches: Approx -0.5 to 0 C (31-32 F)
- Pears: About -1.7 to -0.5 C (29-31 F)
- Cherries: Approx -1 to -0.5 C (30-31 F)
- Raspberries: -0.5 to 0 C (31-32 F)
- Grapes: About -0.5 to 0 C (31-32 F)
On the other hand, reefer container temperature for vegetables typically ranges between -1 to 13 degrees Celsius (30-55 degrees Fahrenheit), depending on the vegetable type. For example:
- Broccoli: 0 C (32 F)
- Brussels sprouts: 0 C (32 F)
- Carrots: Approx 0 C (32 F)
- Garlic: 0 C (32 F)
- Eggplant: 8 to 12 C (46-54 F)
- Green beans: Approx 4 to 7 C (40-45 F)
- Cucumbers: About 10 to 13 C (50-55 F)
- Onion: 0 C (32 F)
- Spinach: 0 C (32 F)
For meat transportation, it is vital that the mode of transport sustains reliable and effective temperature control from the moment meat leaves its point of origin, up to the warehouse or retail store.
Typically, frozen goods like frozen meat, chicken and seafood need to be transported at a temperature of -20°C and below. This helps prevent any spoilage while retaining the flavour and quality of the food.
This also helps prevent the rapid growth of bacteria and microorganisms as meat is easily perishable.
An often forgotten category of perishable goods is pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceuticals must be properly transported to maintain chemical stability. Reefers can help with this aspect as sub-zero temperatures, or elevated temperatures can easily cause various issues.
For example, sedimentation or separation of emulsified goods–as a change of even 2 degrees can easily alter the chemical state beyond repair. Furthermore, pharmaceuticals need to be shipped in a timely manner in order to ensure their efficacy.
Generally, reefer temperatures for pharmaceuticals vary depending on the chemical compounds.
A stabilised temperature range must be confirmed with the pharma manufacturer and regulatory body before shipment. However, common temperature categories for pharmaceuticals typically fall into one of these categories:
- Room temperature: 20˚C to 25˚C
- Cryogenic: 0˚C to as low as -150˚C
- Refrigerated: 2˚C to 8˚C
Reefer container temperature setting
As we observed, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all temperature for fruits and vegetables.
Furthermore, some fruits are more sensitive to temperature changes than others. For example, if lettuce is exposed to higher temperatures, it wilts and eventually rots.
On the other hand, citrus and melons can withstand higher temperatures.
This means that reefer containers require the flexibility to easily adjust to different temperature requirements within their temperature settings. For example:
- 32˚F – 36˚F: greens, berries, cruciferous vegetables, grapes, stone fruits
- 38˚F – 40˚F: avocadoes, cranberries
- 45˚F – 50˚F: watermelon, cucumbers, most citrus, bananas, tomatoes
- 40˚F – 45˚F: potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes
How to check reefer container temperature?
Reefers typically possess data logger recorders that monitor both air, and a cargo pulp temperature within a reefer unit. This data is stored in an electronic memory unit that also logs PTI (Pre-Trip Inspection) results, alarms, and transit details.
What is the maximum temperature a conventional reefer can cool down to?
The temperature range of the average reefer varies as per the container type:
- 20′ Standard Reefer: -30C to +30C
- 40′ High Cube Standard Reefer: -30C to +30C
- 40′ High Cube StarCare™: -30C to +30C
- 40′ High Cube Super Freezer: -60C to -10C
- 40′ High Cube Magnum Reefer: -35C to +30C
How long does it take the average reefer to cool down?
The average reefer takes approximately two hours to cool down with the doors closed.
For more information on reefer containers, their types and efficiency, check out our blog on “What are offshore reefer containers?”