For decades, the “reefer ship” – refrigerated ship – was a mainstay of waterborne transportation systems, a necessary part of any logistics companies‘ planning if they handled perishable or heat-sensitive goods. However, new changes in refrigeration technology – particularly the invention of “reefer containers” – are bringing big changes to the industry.
Will the day soon come that third-party logistics provider transport companies no longer have to employ reefer ships?
For most of the 20th Century, if you wanted to move foods long distances in large quantities, it would probably need to be done in a refrigerated ship. Exactly like it sounds, the entire ship’s cargo hold was kept refrigerated, and such ships exclusively carried heat-sensitive cargo.
In many cases, the below decks area would look like the largest walk-in refrigerator you could imagine.
However, these ships presented numerous challenges, particularly to logistics companies that were looking to cut costs. Simply put, they were incredibly expensive to operate. Maintaining low temperatures in such a relatively huge space required vast amounts of energy, adding greatly to the expense of the venture. There was also a significant element of risk – if anything happened to the main refrigeration system, it could potentially ruin everything stored onboard the ship.
Now, however, a new alternative has emerged – independent refrigerated containers. All the refrigeration equipment and associated fuel are kept within the container itself, and without increasing its size. These containers adhere to the international standards for shipping containers and can be shipped on any suitable vessel.
The benefits to such refrigerated containers are numerous:
And the industry has noticed! Reefer containers were invented in the 1960s, and by 2000, they had already captured 40% of the market. Today, they handle more than 75% of refrigerated shipments.
At these rates, the reefer ship will soon be a thing of the past.
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