Reefer ship

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A reefer ship is a type of ship typically used to transport perishable commodities which require temperature-controlled transportation, mostly fruits, meat, fish, vegetables, dairy products and other foodstuffs.

Reeferships may be split into three categories[1]:

  1. Sidedoor vessels have water tight ports on the ships hull, which open into a cargo hold. Elevators or ramps leading from the quay serve as loading and discharging access for the forklifts or conveyors. Inside these access ports or side doors, pallet lifts or another series of conveyors bring the cargo to the respective decks. This special design makes the vessels particularly well suited for inclement weather operations as the tops of the cargo holds are always closed against rain and sun.
  2. Conventional vessels have a traditional cargo operation with top opening hatches and cranes/derricks. On such ships, when facing wet weather, the hatches need to be closed to prevent heavy rain from flooding the holds. Both above ship types are well suited for the handling of palletized and loose cargo.
  3. Refrigerated Container vessels are specifically designed to carry containerised unit loads where each container is an individual refrigerated unit. These ships differ from conventional container ships in design and power generation equipment.

A major use of refrigerated cargo hold type ships was for the transportation of bananas but has since been partly replaced by refrigerated containers that have a refrigeration system attached to the rear end of the container. While on a ship this is plugged into an electrical outlet (typically 440 VAC) that ties into the ship's power generation. Refrigerated container ships are not limited by the number of refrigeration containers they can carry unlike other container ships which lack sufficient refrigeration outlets or have insufficient generator capacity. Each reefer container unit is designed with a stand-alone electrical circuit and has its own breaker switch that allows it to be connected and disconnected as required.

Refrigerated cargo is a key part of the income for some shipping companies. On multi-purpose ships, Refrigerated containers are mostly carried above deck as they have to be checked for proper operation. Also, a major part of the refrigeration system (such as a compressor) may fail, which would have to be replaced or unplugged quickly in the event of a fire. This being the case, no provisions for refrigerated cargo power connections are made below the hatch covers that enclose the top of the hatches aboard a ship. Modern container vessels stow the reefer containers in cellguides with adjacent inspection walkways that enable reefer containers to be carried in the holds as well.

Modern refrigerated container vessels are designed to incorporate a water-cooling system for containers stowed under deck. This is does not replace the refrigeration system but facilitates cooling down of the external machinery. Containers stowed on the exposed upper deck are air-cooled while those under-deck are water cooled systems. The water cooling design allows capacity loads of refrigerated containers under deck as it enables the dissipation of the high amount of heat they generate. This system draws fresh water from the ship's water supply which in turn transfers the heat through heat exchangers to the abundantly available sea water.

There are also refrigeration systems that have two compressors for very precise and low temperature operation, such as transporting a container full of blood to a war zone. Cargoes of shrimp, asparagus, caviar and blood are considered among the most expensive refrigerated items.

See also


  1. [1] Article: from publication on types of Reefer Ships by Capt. Pawanexh Kohli

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
[[Commons: Category:Reefer ships

| Reefer ships

  • ReeferTrends News site dedicated to the Reefer industry
  • Reefership Information & Schematics of different Reeferships
  • Crosstree Interesting information on refeership ocean transport.
  • Article Article on various reefer ship types.

de:Kühlschiff (Schiffstyp) el:Πλοίο ψυγείο es:Barco frigorífico eo:Malvarmuja ŝipo fr:Navire frigorifique he:אוניית קירור nl:Koelschip ja:冷凍船 pl:Chłodniowiec ru:Рефрижераторное судно fi:Jäähdytysalus