Refrigerated Van Shipping Part 1

Refrigerated van shipping plays an important role in the world of trade. It helps link producers of perishable goods with consumers across the globe. A refrigerated van is a cooled box designed to carry perishable goods at specific temperatures. They are fitted with cooling mechanisms to maintain the quality of the goods inside them. Refrigerated vans are also called reefers or reefer containers that control ripening during transit. Refrigerated goods are defined as perishable food products requiring a controlled environment while in transit. The primary refrigerated trades are meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Perishable foods such as bananas and meat not only move in dedicated vessels but often in refrigerated containers.

The world’s demand for perishable goods is increasing drastically. In recent years sea transportation took share from air-freight, particularly in the realm of tropical fruits, where highly sophisticated containers are used that control transport atmosphere and prolong ripening. It helps in transporting poultry, vegetables, and even flowers from growing regions to distant markets. Carriers serving these trades include Sea Star Line, Matson, Hyundai and Merchant Marines. Sea Star Line offers transportation services from North America to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This makes Sea Star Line the only player in providing ocean transportation services in this vital commercial channel. To keep good quality refrigerated foods, cold logistics carriers must adopt optimal temperature controls on multi-temperature commodities in the process of supply, storage, and delivery. Refrigerated supply chains with international components also rely on networks of temperature controlled storage facilities at ports, enabling local distribution to be coordinated with schedules of deep-sea vessels operating in semi-liner services.

There are two ways refrigerated foods are transported by sea. First is non-bulk cargo in the refrigerated holds of a ship called “reefer ships”. Second is specialized refrigerated containers known as reefers. The refrigerated products are divided into two groups:  chilled and frozen cargo. Chilled cargo consists of fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Such products are cooled to the required temperature to preserve the product until it reaches the market. Chilled products require sophisticated, expensive monitoring devices since minute tolerances are necessary to maintain the correct temperature. Too low a temperature, the product will freeze and spoil. Too high a temperature, the product will ripen and spoil. Therefore, controlled atmosphere technology enables shelf times of products to be significantly extended. Frozen cargo mainly consists of meat and seafood that is easily transported. Temperature tolerances are relaxed since quality is less affected by small changes in temperature.

Refrigerated vans are ice-cooled or equipped with various mechanical refrigeration systems. These vans also utilize carbon dioxide either as dry ice or in liquid form as a cooling agent. Or, they employ liquid nitrogen as a cooling agent. A mist of liquefied nitrogen is released when the temperature inside the van rises above a predetermined level. Each van carries up to 1,350 kg of refrigerant and maintains a temperature of minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The body of the vans is made of aluminum which increases its durability and provides better corrosion resistance, offsetting the higher initial cost. 

This segment of cargo transportation is often impacted by major trends affecting shipping sectors. First is rising fuel prices and second is the port security issue including transportation workers' identification credentials. The shipping of refrigerated goods is a major industry worldwide and experienced steady growth over recent years. In the longer term, commercial development in the shipping industry will provide adequate refrigerated cargo shipping if effective utilization is improved through more efficient pricing and spacing arrangements.