Reefer cargo losses due temperature failure & preventive measures



If inland transit time is greater than 2 hours for chilled cargo and 8 hours for frozen cargo, it is recommended to use the generator set to supply power to container during inland tracking . IF A GENERATOR IS NOT AVAILABLE, THEN IT is SUGGESTED THAT THE CONTAINER IS PLACED ON POWER FOR AT LEAST 6 HOURS PRIOR TO THE TRANSPORT . THIS WILL ALLOW THE MACHINERY TO EXPELL THE AMBIENT AIR THAT HAS ACCUMULATED INSIDE THE CONTAINER DURING LOADING. THUS THE PRODUCT TEMPERATURE IS STABILISED BEFORE TRANSPORT. FOR A 40 feet REEFER IT IS ESTIMATED THAT APPROXIMATELY 10 TO 13M3 OF AMBIENT AIR IS ACCUMULATED INSIDE THE CONTAINER.

Laden heat from external ambient may cause raise in carriage temperature if the reefer unit is left off power for too long. Hence it is always recommended to truck reefer cargo during cooler climate (at night) or with clip on generator set to ensure continue power supply during land transportation.

Heating of reefer container Fig: Reefer container heating process

Incorrect Temperatures Maintained due to Poor Paperwork

The following reefer cargo claims resulted from errors made by the ship's agent when entering temperatures on the ship's documents or by inputting incorrect details into a computer.

Cheese from Denmark to the UK was carried at 0 deg C instead of minus 20 deg C. Concrete additives from Bremerhaven to Helsinki, which needed to be maintained at a temperature of +10 deg C to prevent frost damage, were carried at minus 6 deg C.

Bottles of wine from Antwerp to the US were carried at minus 20 deg C. Frozen beef was stored at +2 deg C as the temperatures for two reefers had been transposed by the Agent.

Incorrect Instructions for Reefer Temperature Setting

When the ambient temperature is warmer than the cargo, operating the reefer with the rear doors open will NOT cool down the cargo. The introduction of hot ambient air will heat up the cargo instead.

When hot humid air enters the reefer, moisture condenses on the cold cooling coil and turns to ice. Ethylene entering the reefer from genset exhaust may cause ripening of fresh produce. Exhaust odour may give product off-fl avours. Cooled air escapes out the rear door, and the cycle continues. Once loading is complete and the doors are closed the reefer could run for hours with a partially iced up cooling coil, reducing its cooling effect, and putting the cargo in danger until the unit completes a defrost cycle

A port agent in the UK received a container list from his principal's South American agent. This included two containers of frozen meat shipped at minus 18 deg C. When this information was transferred to the agent's computer system, the containers were shown as containing film with a temperature setting of +13 deg C.

Unfortunately, the error was not picked up even after additional checking, with the result that when the containers were discharged at the UK port they were set to +13 deg C in accordance with the agent's instructions. Three days after arrival at the container depot, blood was seen seeping from the doors of the containers, these were then opened to reveal the rapidly thawing beef.

The temperature control was re-set to minus 18 deg C to try to stabilise the consignment. Surveyors were immediately instructed by the carrier's P&I Club, and the Port Health Authority issued notices stating that the consignment could not be used for human consumption.

An offer was accepted for salvage, this reduced the claim against the agent and was settled by the Club.



Our detail pages below examine some typical cases of damage to reefer cargoes & countermeasures against future claims



Related reefer damage cases :

  1. Ships failure to maintain necessary conditions


  2. Frozen lobster damage case and receiver claimed


  3. Failure to instruct terminal resulting damage to reefer cargo


  4. Practice of carrying unrefrigerated cargo in reefer containers


  5. Agents liability for a damage survey at discharge port


  6. Contamination of a tank container carrying wine


  7. Delivery of frozen beef without issuing a B/L caused a reefer claim


  8. Preventing garlic damage in a consignment - related recommendations


  9. Refrigerated commodity pre -shipment failure to provide suitable condition - various countermeasures









Copyright © 2011 www.reefercargocare.com All rights reserved.

All information contained in this website is for preliminary information only and is not legally binding. The publisher of this website cannot take responsibility for any damage to your reefer cargo due inadequate data or errors. For any remarks please Contact us
Disclaimer Privacy policy Home page


Reefer cargo
Why refrigerate?
We choose to refrigerate commodities such as fruits and vegetables because we want to prolong their “practical shelf life” – the time from harvest until the product loses its commercial value.



Top articles

  1. How refrigeration process works in a reefer container ?


  2. Chilled and frozen refrigerated cargo - stuffing requirements


  3. Integrated reefer containers transporting commodities at trans-ocean services


  4. Maintenance requirement for integrated reefer containers