Logistic services

Refrigerated cargo transport: what is it and why is this topic so much talked about?

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The demand for refrigerated freight transport services has increased dramatically during 2021 , largely as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to deliver essential food and medicine around the world.

Refrigerated cargo is one of the most interesting activities in international logistics, as it requires both the use of special equipment and compliance with very strict protocols to guarantee that the cargo is kept at the right temperature at all times for its preservation. .

The refrigerated transport of cargo can be carried out by air, land and sea and is widely used to import and export drugs and perishable products of animal or plant origin, as well as any other cargo that needs to be kept at low temperature .

As perishable product we understand those that are likely to expire or degrade in a relatively short time due to environmental factors such as temperature, pressure or humidity.

Therefore, keeping them at controlled temperature, pressure and humidity is the best way to extend their life time, facilitating their transport over long distances without losing their physical, chemical or biological qualities.

The crisis boosts the growth of refrigerated freight transport

The Covid-19 pandemic had many consequences on the world economy and especially in the area of ​​logistics.

One of these consequences was a rapid increase in demand for refrigerated transport services . For example, the giant shipping company MSC reported that in 2020 alone it transported a record 1.9 million reefer containers, mostly filled with food and medicine.

To this is added that the movement of some items that need refrigerated transport has risen steadily worldwide in recent years.

For example, demand for fresh fruit has grown by 40% during the 2010-2020 period and after the onset of the pandemic, the demand for those with a high vitamin C content increased even more.

But in addition to refrigerated cargo of pharmaceutical origin and fresh food, there has also been an increase in the transport of other goods such as pastry products, flowers and processed foods.

Transport companies adapt to change

To adapt to the growing demand for refrigerated cargo transport services, transport companies have invested a great deal of money in the purchase of reefer or refrigerated containers, as well as container ships with greater capacity.

For example, the second largest shipping company in the world, the company MSC, acquired in 2020 about 15,000 Star Cool containers to its inventory, in addition to increasing its fleet of ships with the container ship “MSC Gülsün”.

This vessel is 400 meters long, 61.5 meters wide and 11.5 meters deep. She is a giant with a gross weight of 210,000 tons and 197,500 deadweight tons and yet she can sail at speeds between 15 and 25 knots.

But what stands out the most is that she is the first container ship in the world with 24 rows </ strong>, which allows her to carry 1,500 more containers than any other ship of her type.

The high demand for refrigerated transport of fresh products, meat, fish, chicken, dairy products, medicines and raw materials vulnerable to temperature has led MSC to contract the construction of another 10 ships of this type at the South Korean shipyard Samsung Heavy Industries.

Europe and Asia also increase the movement of refrigerated cargo

For their part, the reefer container operator Seatrade and the French shipping company CMA CGM have also taken a step forward to take advantage of the upward trend in this demand.

In this regard, they signed an agreement to operate a route between Australia and Europe using a fleet of 13 refrigerated container ships .

According to the annual Reefer Market Report and Projections published through the weekly Dewry, there is a accelerating trend on the part of shipping companies to expand their containerized cargo fleets .

The report highlights that up to 65% of perishable products that reach Europe and Asia come from South America. In addition, its data indicates that the volume of refrigerated cargo has increased 6.4% between 2016 and 2021.

Finally, it stands out that between 2017 and 2020 orders were signed for the construction of more than 400 container ships with the capacity to carry refrigerated containers.

This shows that shipping companies are aware of the service that will be most in demand within international transport logistics.

What is a Reefer container?

The most important element in international cargo is the container and each type of merchandise requires a different type of container , as well as special handling when loading and unloading.

So-called refrigerated containers or Reefers containers are used to transport cargo that needs controlled temperature conditions during transit.

This type of container has a refrigeration unit that is fed from the ship’s electrical network , from the loading port or from the truck that transports it by land.

It also has hermetic seals that prevent the entry of air or water from the outside, helping to keep the temperature and humidity inside it stable.

A Reefer container can maintain its contents at controlled temperatures in the range of -18º C to 30º C.

Types of technologies used in Reefer containers

In general, Reefer containers have two basic systems to preserve their cargo : Controlled Atmosphere and Cold Treatment.

The Controlled Atmosphere technologies most used at the moment are Star Cool and XtendFRESH, which are based on the monitoring and adjustment of oxygen and carbon dioxide levels inside the container.

This slows down the ripening process of fruits and vegetables during transport.

For its part, Cold Treatment consists of a process by which the temperature is reduced or varied for a certain time and amount to kill insects and stop the action of bacteria without causing damage to the merchandise.

What are the measurements and capacity of the Refrigerated Containers?

The characteristics and size of Reefer containers may vary depending on the manufacturer, year of construction or the specific requirements made by the owner who ordered their manufacture.

However, in general the most common container types are:

  • 20 ‘Reefer Container: Its internal measurements are 5.44 meters (length) by 2.29 meters (width) and 2.27 meters (height). They have an internal capacity of 28.3 cubic meters. Their net weight of 3,080 kilograms and can carry up to 27,400 kilograms of cargo.
  • 40 ‘Reefer Container : It has an internal length of 11.56 meters by 2.28 meters wide and 2.25 meters high. Their internal capacity is 59.3 cubic meters and they have a net weight of 4,800 kilograms. They can carry up to 27,700 kilograms of cargo.
  • High Cube Reefer 40 ‘Container: It is similar in length and width to the previous one but is somewhat taller. Internally it measures 11.58 meters long by 2.29 meters wide and 2.40 meters high. With a net weight of 4,480 kilograms, it offers internal storage of 67.3 cubic meters and is capable of carrying up to 29,520 kilograms of cargo.
  • 45 ‘Reefer Container: This container offers an internal space of 67 cubic meters. Its internal measurements are 11.57 meters long by 2.27 meters wide and 2.55 meters high. It has a net weight of 4,850 kilograms and a load capacity of 29,150 kilograms.

Consult with the best to export refrigerated cargo from Paraguay

When hiring an international logistics service to carry refrigerated cargo it is important to ensure that all sanitary and technical conditions are met to protect the integrity of perishable cargo.

In this sense, the providers of these services, as well as those responsible for intermediate logistics must ensure that they comply with basic but fundamental steps such as:

  • Detailed inspection of the Reefer container to verify that it has been cleaned and disinfected.
  • Verify that the container meets the requirements of the perishable cargo it will carry.
  • Verification of the good condition of environmental control equipment, temperature and alarm systems.
  • Review of temperature and humidity settings to make sure they correspond to what is required by the client.

If you want to carry out a project of import or export of refrigerated products in Paraguay you must have the support and advice of an expert company in the field.

Alfa Trading S.A. is a Paraguayan company with more than 28 years of experience in the international logistics area.

Our experts have extensive knowledge of international freight, customs procedures and related to the handling of all types of cargo to Paraguay or to export anywhere in the world.

We also offer you global coverage as we have cargo agents in all ports and airports in the world, ready to assist you throughout the logistics process.

For this reason, we are the ideal company to support you as an exporter and importer and thus drive your operation towards success.



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