Best Practices For Handling & Maintaining Reefer Containers

When it comes to storing and transporting temperature- and humidity-sensitive cargo, industries today rely on reefer containers to get their goods safely from point A to B because of their proven reliability and cost-effectiveness. That said, if one is not careful enough and misuses these containers, they can become a liability instead. To ensure reefer containers work for you and not against you, consider the following best practices when using them for your container haulage processes.

1. Know your cargo first

Although reefer containers are suited for transporting various goods, different products require different conditions to stay fresh upon arrival. As such, knowing what type of cargo you are transporting, be it chilled or frozen goods, special cargo, or any other type of material, along with their required temperature and humidity settings, lets you choose the container type that is best suited for your needs.

2. Be familiar with different cargo handling stages

Proper handling of temperature-sensitive cargo is vital at every step of the transportation process. Even the slightest bit of negligence here could adversely affect the cargo’s quality, shelf life, and appearance. The following are the most important handling stages you can expect and tips on how to do them the right way:

Pre-shipment handling

There are several key parts to this stage, namely providing accurate information about the cargo being shipped, including all the relevant details like weight, volume, temperature requirements, type of packaging, and so on, and pre-shipment inspection of the reefer containers. The latter is crucial in ensuring that your containers are in optimal condition and that no part of the unit is damaged. Otherwise, there is a high risk of the cargo getting spoiled during transport.


It is important to remember that reefers do not lower the temperature of their cargo but rather maintain the temperature they need to stay fresh. Hence, businesses must ensure that their chilled or frozen products are pre-cooled to avoid freezer burn and surface thawing, which occurs when the reefer’s temperature and cargo do not match.

Packaging and stowing

This part of the cargo handling process should be performed with safeguarding against bad weather and rough handling in mind. As such, it involves precautions like stowing cargo in a way that facilitates adequate airflow and ventilation and choosing the right carton packaging capable of withstanding the container’s expected temperature and humidity levels.

3. Follow the proper maintenance procedures for reefer containers

Apart from regular inspections, having a maintenance regimen is also vital in keeping reefer containers in good working condition, as factors like corrosion and more can significantly reduce their lifespan if left unchecked. Here are just a few of the many ways you can keep your reefers in good working order:

Defrost your containers

Defrosting reefer containers from time to time is recommended to improve their performance. Ice builds up when moisture thaws and gets frozen inside the unit, blocking air circulation and creating a flawed cooling environment. Therefore, see if you can include defrosting when doing maintenance to remove the built-up ice and clean it out in the process.

Conduct periodic cleanings

Regular cleaning keeps rust and other damage caused by weathering from deteriorating your reefer containers. When cleaning, do include the refrigerator box as well, especially if you use your containers to transport food and other goods that can easily get contaminated or become contaminated by residue from previous loads.

Check on the coils and fans

A reefer’s coils and fans tend to collect not only dirt and dust but also frozen condensation, which reduces their efficiency and the entire container unit. Cleaning these parts ensures operational efficiency remains unaffected, and you can keep them from collecting moisture by shutting down the reefer during the loading stage to prevent warm air from condensing and freezing.


Like any other asset, reefer containers require good handling and maintenance to preserve their functionality and structural integrity. And with the added complexity brought on by their temperature control features, organizations must be more diligent in keeping their reefers in tip-top shape. Therefore, organizations should also take note of the challenges in refrigerated shipping and how to overcome them.

If your organization needs a reliable solution for transporting temperature-sensitive goods, OSG Containers have the refrigerated containers you need to achieve your goals. Whether you want to buy or rent, we have a wide selection of reefer containers suitable for every use case, from cold storage transport to alternative cold rooms. For more information about our reefer containers and other shipping containers like ISO tank containers and general-purpose containers, do not hesitate to contact us at any time.

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