Reefer containers are pre-set before delivering to the customer, meaning that they should have been configured to the desired settings that the shipper requested beforehand – e.g., temperature, ventilation, humidity, etc.
Further, these containers should be steam-cleaned before being delivered to the customer. The boxes should be odor-free from previous shipments, and clean to receive the new commodity. It is also very important to keep reefers plugged in be it on the road or at the terminal. On the vessel, they must be plugged into the vessel power pack.
There is a mis conception that Reefer containers are only carrying perishable cargo. All kind of commodities that need to be transported in a temperature-controlled environment are considered reefer cargo. This could include furniture, chemicals, hides, etc.
Rates: Not all reefers have the same rates. For instance, Frozen cargo rates are generally much cheaper than chilled rates. The rule of thumb is that any commodity that is more prone to get damaged due to change in temperature has a higher rate. Rates are also determined by the commercial value of the cargo like Pharmaceuticals are usually the most-expensive commodity.
Airflow is very important when loading cargo on reefer containers. If you over load cargo, you may find the cargo damaged at the receiving end, because cold air was being blocked. In addition, special boxes with holes are needed for chilled goods, and closed boxes with plastic wrapping are required for frozen cargo.
Shelf life of the cargo is also very important? You must know the length of time in which the cargo remains consumable. You must also know the varieties of a commodity. For instance, certain varieties of apples have a shorter shelf life than others. As such, you need to choose the correct service to load the cargo depending on the transit time.
New technologies have emerged to reduce the ripening of perishable goods. Ethylene is the hormone responsible for that, while manufacturers are trying to find ways to slow the production down. This will also allow steamship lines to participate in carrying traditional air freight commodities, like fresh flowers.
Last and the most important one. All commodities do not require the same treatment. Some commodities need fluctuation in temperature while in transit, some also need cold treatment in-transit. Some countries also have strict requirements in downloading data from the reefer container, and besides the general log that shows any alerts and discrepancies, they may require probes (a type of thermometer) to be installed in the container.