Refrigerated Shipping Containers


In the shipping industry, products require proper packaging to ensure the health and security of the products. Therefore, this means shipping containers should be sturdy, able to withstand the shipping process and provide a safe storage facility. Sometimes, ordinary shipping containers are not just good enough to store frozen foods and chemicals and need specially designed containers to store these items.

For this purpose, Insulated containers, also known as “Reefers,” are ideal for storing certain food items such as meats, fresh and frozen vegetables, and even substances like pharmaceuticals and chemicals. These items need to stay at a cooling temperature to ensure their freshness and high quality until they finally reach the consumer’s hands.

ISO Shipping Containers or refrigerated containers are used for intermodal freight transport that involves temperature-controlled refrigeration of the cargo. They have built-in refrigeration systems that are operated from external power supplies from land-based sites, container ships, or quays.

Types of Refrigerated Containers

Reefers come in two types:

  1. Integrated containers: They have an integrated cooling system and can be easily transported from sea to road or rails.
  2. Porthole Containers: These containers need a system to be connected that pumps the air after cooling it. They are less demanding as the companies are shifting to integrated models.

Specifications of Reefers

Reefer is defined as “a refrigerator (especially one large enough to be walked into), a refrigerator car, ship, or truck.” Reefers play an essential role in global trade. They ensure goods are shipped at the optimal temperature and maintain the humidity and ventilation levels that needed for the product they are transporting.

Reefers can maintain their temperatures ranging from below 0 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit making them the perfect fit for any business that requires temperature sensitive storage.

Reefer or Refrigerated Container Dimensions

The refrigerated containers are available in 20 ft and 40 ft lengths and are electric powered. However, specific dimensions and capacity of reefers may vary depending on the quality, manufacturing, and age of the container.

 Some general dimension and specifications are listed below:

  1. 20´ reefer containers
Tare weight  Payload capacity  Cubic capacity  Internal length 
 3,080 kg  27,400 kg  28.3 m3  5.44 m
 6,791.4 lbs  60,417 lbs 999 cu ft 17.9 ft
Internal width Internal height  Door opening width  Door opening height 
 2.29 m  2.27 m  2.23 m  2.10 m
 7.5 ft  7.5 ft 7.3 ft  6.9 ft
  1. 40´ reefer containers
Tare weight  Payload capacity  Cubic capacity  Internal length 
 4,800 kg  27,700 kg  59.3 m3  11.56 m
 10,584 lbs  61,078.5 lbs 2,093.3 cu ft 37.9 ft
 Internal width Internal height  Door opening width  Door opening height 
 2.28 m  2.25 m  2.29 m  2.26 m
 7.5 ft  7.4 ft 7.5 ft  7.4 ft

Electric Power System:

Reefers are equipped with the Electric powered systems and are more efficient as well as quieter than diesel-powered units. The refrigerated containers are built on modern technology, so they do not release any harmful emissions, which makes them safe for the environment as well. Some ISO shipping containers are also water-cooled, and used when the container is stored in a vessel without passable ventilation. Temperature controlling of the container is simple and is as easy as controlling the temperature of any household fridge.

When refrigerated containers are in freight terminals, they are connected to the terminal power supply.

When moving on a vessel, the containers are connected to the ship power supply system; as an alternative, they can be equipped with ‘power packs’ using diesel generators to power the cooling system. These diesel generators can also be used when traveling on roads or rails.

Additional Features:

  • Some refrigerated containers are also equipped with hook rails to hang the meat and other food items.
  • Reefers are also available as a 45 high cube.
  • Preserves the quality of frozen foods by slowing down the oxidative process and inhibits micro-organisms.
  • All of these containers will also have a temperature logger, which shows you the temperature of the container inside.

Things to Consider when buying Reefers

When buying an insulated container, you’ll find that they come in assorted sizes, small to extra-large. You can buy large ones constructed from steel, while other small ones are made from Styrofoam and polystyrene foam.

When you have a lot of items to store, it may be better to buy one bigger container and save each group of things individually.

Factory warranties cover many of the container-supplied refrigeration machines, and any unauthorized work may result in the loss of the warranty cover. So, any consequence of lost or limited warranty will go for the customer’s account.


The standard size of refrigerated containers is 20ft and 40ft while they are also available in large and extra-large sizes for the bulk cargo shipment. It is hard to provide the exact cost of the reefers as they differ in size, quality, type, and condition. However, a general price guide is here to give you an idea of what you should pay to your supplier or dealer.

  • A new 20′ refrigerated storage container= $5,600 and $7,000.
  • A used 20′ refrigerated storage container = $3,900 and $4,400.
  • A new 40′ refrigerated storage container = $10,000 to $12,000.
  • A used 40′ refrigerated storage container = $4,600 to $6,300.
  • A new 40′ high cube refrigerated storage container = $10,000 to $12,400.
  • A used 40′ high cube refrigerated storage container = $4,700 to $6,400.
  • If you want to rent a refrigerated container rental costs averaging between $30 and $85 per day.

Image from Tiger Containers

Impact of Refrigerated Containers

The impact of containers on society is really fruitful, and consumers all over the world enjoy the benefits of fresh produce as a result of them. Not just for ships or transportation, reefers are also the perfect solution for temperature-controlled storage at ground or dock level. The introduction of refrigerated containers resulted in huge improvements in port handling efficiency, which has great effects on lowering freight charges, and general costs, and this helps to boost the flow of trade.

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