Suppose you are sitting in a lounge chair on the beach in the beautiful wine country of Margaret River in Western Australia, near Perth, casually peeling an orange as you watch the surf. The label on the peel says it’s a product of Florida. You don’t care; it tastes good, but you might wonder how a fresh orange traveled over 11,000 miles into your hand as if it was just picked from the tree.
The same question might be asked about the freshness of any perishable product that must be transported over a distance from where it originated to where it is consumed.
Once upon a time, perishable goods could only be shipped short distances, still relatively local, and only in season in that locale, in order to be enjoyed. If you wanted to eat a fresh, Florida naval orange, you had to wait for winter weather and live within a day’s travel to Florida for that delightful treat.
Now, the answer to the question is reefer containers, a moniker implying a refrigerated container. These days it is, specifically, a refrigerated inter-modal container, meaning that the container is standardized in size and accommodations so that it can be transported by ship, rail and truck without the necessity to unload and re-load the contents into separate containers. This reduces opportunity for re-handling damage and shipping time.
All reefers have an integrated cooling system, but they are mostly dependent on external power to function. An integral power unit is very expensive, driving up shipping costs. It is far more typical that an external power source from the ship, rail car or truck provides the power.
By standardizing the reefer size and accommodations for inter-modal transport, and because contents do not have to be unloaded and re-loaded during transport, it makes shipping security much easier to maintain. This will assure that shipping time is held to a minimum because containers are not tied up in customs while contents are verified. It also assures that contents are not subject to invasion by insects or rodents whose unintended transfer from one environment to another does not cause unwanted consequences.
The convenience of reefer containers allows consumers all over the world to enjoy fresh products from just about anywhere else around the world.