TT Talk - Non-operating reefers
New guidelines are being published in relation to the effective deployment of non-operating reefers to carry cargo that does not need to be temperature controlled.
Refrigerated containers (known as reefers) are, inevitably, designed to be used to transport temperature controlled cargo. While most people will not stop to consider the source of a particular foodstuff, many items travel considerable distances around the globe to satisfy the appetites of consumers for exotic foods in season and out of season. Equally, few romantics either giving or receiving flowers this Valentine's Day (or at any other time) will muse as to where they were grown, but the chances are far, far away from the florist's display.
However, such consumers have grown to expect high quality products available year-long at the point of purchase. This reality has largely become possible and cost-effective by reason of diligent advances in the ability to maintain constant and appropriate atmospheres within containers as they travel thousands of miles from the indigenous habitat to shop shelf.
So it is that the containers themselves have grown in sophistication, which equates to cost. Not only do machinery units need to perform consistently in the extremities of the conditions encountered during a journey, but the structural characteristics of the container itself need to accommodate insulation while precluding contamination or other damage to sensitive cargoes.
However, having made the delivery, there is often insufficient temperature controlled cargo for a ‘return’ leg, with the result that reefers tend to be positioned empty to locations where there is demand to pack such cargo. Commercially, this obviously presents difficulty – a unit that has to travel in both directions but only earns in one, and then incurs cost to get it back to a packing point. In order to minimise empty repositioning costs, container operators may therefore use reefer containers in a non-operating mode to carry approved dry cargo on a return leg. Such cargo is described as non-operating reefer cargo (NOR cargo).
NOR cargo is defined as a cargo that is approved for packing into a refrigerated container to be transported without operating the refrigeration machinery. Transporting NOR cargo enables the carriage of additional cargo in busy trade lanes where reefers need to be
positioned for their next cargo move, but are competing for slot space with revenue earning dry cargo.
The specific characteristics of reefer containers in terms of both design and materials require both container owners/operators and also shippers/packers to consider the additional measures to ensure that the valuable container equipment is not unduly exposed to damage, whilst also ensuring that the cargo is also appropriately packed and secured to keep its condition, and not likely to prejudice the carriage of future cargoes either. Thus, much more must be taken into account in relation to the approval of and packing requirements for NOR cargo.
“The specific characteristics of reefer containers require additional measures to ensure that the valuable container equipment is not unduly exposed to damage”
As a result, TT Club has sponsored the production of guidelines by the Container Owners Association (COA) and the CINS Organisation that are intended to help container operators and shippers in making decisions that appropriately protect both cargo and containers. The new guidelines will be available in March 2017, please apply here to receive your copy.
“guidelines intended to help container operators and shippers in making decisions that appropriately protect both cargo and containers”
This new publication identifies the specifics involved in the design and maintenance of reefer units that need to be taken into account in relation to cargo operations. The guidelines also discuss the common causes of corrosion and damage that may result in deterioration of the cargo being carried or future cargoes, but also in costly repairs to the container equipment. Some of these are due to the characteristics of the cargo being presented for carriage, although much will be to do with packing practices. For example, the interior dimensions are smaller than a general purpose unit of similar external size. Thus, fork trucks must be sized so that they can be accommodated by the lower height and narrower width of a reefer container doorway.
Furthermore, the materials used in a reefer construction include copper, aluminium and high grade stainless steel, which require additional care – not only are they more susceptible to corrosion or oxidation, but also impact damage.
The guidance advises that certain cargo types are inappropriate, while others may be considered for carriage, always subject to the individual carrier’s cargo management acceptance criteria. In all instances, consideration is needed in relation to the packaging of the cargo, as well as the packing and securing processes, taking account of the construction of the reefer unit, particularly the strength of the lashing points, where available, in relation to the characteristics of the cargo being presented for shipment.
In summary, the use of reefers for NOR cargo in reefers requires careful evaluation, packing and securing to avoid costly damage to the interior or compromise the ability to carry future temperature controlled cargoes. The jointly produced document ‘Guidelines for the Carriage of Cargo in Non-Operating Reefer Containers’ seeks to ensure successful outcomes for all stakeholders.
“NOR cargo in reefers requires careful evaluation, packing and securing”
The new guidelines will be available in March 2017, please apply here to receive your copy. Alternatively you can apply to TT Club or one of the other organisations for these new guidelines.
We hope that you have found the above interesting. If you would like further information, or have any comments, please email us, or take this opportunity to forward to any colleagues who you may feel would be interested.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Risk Management Director, TT Club