Refrigerated Shipping Containers for Sale

Shipping containers have made it possible to ship all kinds of goods in a standardised manner, revolutionising global trade and storage. However, if you have goods sensitive to temperature, a standard container may not be suitable.

Way back in the 1800s, ships were attempting to use ice and salt in their cargo holds to reduce the amount of spoiling that occurred. Recognising there was a clear gap in the system, engineers began to experiment with refrigerated containers in the late 19th century, leading to the invention and introduction of the reefer container as we know it today.

The invention of the reefer container meant that goods were guaranteed to be preserved throughout the shipping process, playing a vital role in any industry that deals with perishable goods.

With the ability to carry such temperature-sensitive goods, reefers are undoubtedly one of the most important container types out there. Continue reading to find out more about how reefer containers work and the variety of ways you can use them.

There are a few types of containers. Some are more specific than others. One, in particular, the reefer container, is a specialist container. So, what is the reefer container, and what can you do with it?

As container rent and supply experts all around Australia, this is a question we're in the best position to answer.

A reefer container is a refrigerated shipping container used to transport perishable goods. Depending on the setting, they are temperature-controlled and can keep goods cool or frozen. Reefer containers are often used to transport food, pharmaceuticals, and other temperature-sensitive items.

But of course, the trick is knowing which cooling type you need, when you need to use a reefer container, and how to use it.

So we'll dive into some more information to help, or just give us a call, and we'll help you select the container that completely suits your needs.


Reefer containers are specialised shipping containers designed to keep your goods cool or frozen during transportation.

Reefer containers get their name from the reference to "refrigeration" built into them. Sometimes they’re also called “RF containers”.

These units regulate the container's temperature by either cooling it down or heating it. There are a few different types depending on the intended cargo. So we'll get into those shortly.

According to research experts, the number of reefer containers in circulation is expected to reach 7,063.3 thousand TEUs by 2030. TEU essentially means twenty-foot equivalent units as a mean measurement of size.

So you will likely have seen one or come across one as a shipping agent at some point.

As mentioned, reefer containers are used to transport temperature-sensitive goods, but what exactly are they?

Short for ‘refrigerated container’, by definition, a reefer container is a type of shipping container that keeps its cargo at a stabilised temperature by functioning as a large fridge. As one of the six types of shipping containers used for freight purposes, they are ideal and typically used for transporting goods such as pharmaceuticals, fruits, meat, fish and flowers.

While their temperature regulation has made them a fundamental part of shipping and storage today, they provide an extensive list of benefits, including:

  • The ability to keep goods cold constantly,
  • Being available in a variety of dimensions depending on the road, sea, or air use,
  • Can be partitioned to hold different temperature departments (e.g. frozen and chilled),
  • Just like regular containers, they are sturdy and durable,
  • Standardised structure means they can be transported by any carrier, and;
  • Prevent goods from spoiling and ensure a longer shelf-life by circulating cool air.


Reefer containers are typically used to transport perishable goods such as food, pharmaceuticals, and other items that must be kept at a controlled temperature. However, they can also be used for non-perishable items that require refrigeration, such as chemicals or electronics.

Reefers are commonly used to transport goods internationally. Because they are equipped with unique temperature controls and insulation, they can maintain a consistent temperature while in transit through hot and cold regions to prevent spoilage or contamination.

Overall, reefer containers play an important role in global logistics.

Whether you're transporting food, pharmaceuticals, or other temperature-sensitive items, reefers can help ensure that your goods arrive at their destination in perfect condition.

Several different types of reefer containers are available, each with its unique features and benefits.


There are different types of reefer containers for different needs.

Depending on what you are transporting, a reefer container may be ideal.

Reefer containers offer numerous advantages, whether you're shipping food items, medical supplies, or other temperature-sensitive cargo.

For example, they provide optimal temperature control and protection from the elements, making them well suited for various applications.

Additionally, much like standard containers, they can be easily transported by road or sea.

Note: Reefers ideally need to be pre-cooled. An empty trailer takes approximately two hours to cool with the doors kept closed.

So when you order your reefer container at any of our Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne or Freemantle locations, allow this time before loading the trailer.


The history of the refrigerated shipping container started in 1956. Back then, the original shipping container was initially used for transporting dry cargo, also known as general cargo.

It only took a few years after its invention for the cargo container to become a huge success, due to its ability to reduce shipping times by hastening the process of loading and offloading cargo) and improve space utilisation in ships and ports.

In fact, the only complaint back then about the container was that it could not be used to transport goods that were temperature sensitive.

This led engineers to come up with a new and innovative way to solve this problem and in the 1960s the very first refrigerated container (reefer) was born. However, due to being quite rudimentary at the time, the containers were called insulated containers.

The introduction of the new container was a big hit, due to its cooling capabilities which made the shipping container even more versatile. Users were now able to transport temperature sensitive cargo such as vegetables, fruits, films, pharmaceuticals, plants, meat, eggs, among other products.


There are two main types of reefer containers in terms of size:

● Standard reefers: The most common type of reefer containers. Standard lengths are 10, 20, and 40 feet.
● High cube reefers: These are taller than standard reefers at 20 feet high. Available in 20 and 40 feet lengths.

In terms of cooling mechanisms, there are again some variations. We can help you more with this when you order your container. But here's a quick rundown on the types.


The air method of cooling a reefer is the most common and typically the most effective. Air-cooled reefers have a cooling unit mounted on the end wall of the container that forces cool air through the unit, usually via the floor or side of the container.

The floor arrangement in a reefer allows cooling air circulation throughout the trailer.

Air-cooled reefer containers are perfect for transporting products such as fresh fruit and vegetables and meat and dairy products.

The cold air circulates throughout the container, lowering the cargo temperature inside.


A water-cooled reefer has a cooling unit mounted on the reefer's underside that circulates water through the container's floor.

This water is then cooled in a separate cooling unit and piped back into the reefer container to cool down your cargo.

These containers are ideal for transporting temperature-sensitive products such as frozen foods, ice cream, and pharmaceuticals.


Dry ice reefers use a cooling system that circulates cold air through the container using a fan. The cold air is generated by evaporating dry ice, which is placed in the reefer's cooling unit.

This type of container is ideal for transporting products such as ice cream and frozen foods.


Ethylene oxide reefers use a chemical refrigerant to cool the air inside the container.

This chemical is circulated through the reefer using a fan. And ethylene oxide is a very effective refrigerant and sterilising agent, but it can also be toxic.

For this reason, ethylene oxide is only used to transport products that need to be kept at extremely low temperatures, such as vaccines and lab samples.

Regardless of what kind of reefer container you are using, it is important to be careful when loading and unloading your goods.

Using proper temperature monitoring and control systems can help ensure that your products remain safe and fresh during their journey.


Currently, there are two types of refrigerated containers in the world today, porthole containers and integrated containers. The porthole container is becoming less and less common due to companies shifting to the newer model, which are integrated containers.

Porthole containers have two holes in the rear wall which is used for ventilation. From these holes, cold air is pumped into the container and warm air evacuated to keep the contents at the desired temperature. This type of container requires being connected to a reefer plant where the air is cooled before being pumped into the container.

Integrated containers are a more sophisticated reefer that features an integrated cooling system and can easily be moved from sea to rail and vice versa without any complications. This system has made the modern shipping container more “independent” making it easier to switch between different modes of transport. Integrated reefers also feature a refrigeration mechanism that is either self-powered (using fuel run gen sets) or powered by external power points on quays, ships and landing bases.


Now you're probably wondering which reefer you need for your cargo. Here's a simple table of the types of cargo and the typical reefer option that transports them. Plus the available sizes.

Note: This is intended as a guide only. For specific needs, it’s better to speak to our experts. Click the ‘Get a Quote’ option to find out more.

CargoReefer TypeSizes AvailableEnquire
FruitsAir-Cooled20’, 40’Get a Quote
VegetablesAir-Cooled20’, 40’Get a Quote
MeatAir-Cooled20’, 40’Get a Quote
DairyAir-Cooled20’, 40’Get a Quote
FishAir-Cooled20’, 40’Get a Quote
Perishable FoodsAir-Cooled20’, 40’Get a Quote
Frozen FoodsWater-Cooled20’, 40’Get a Quote
Iced productsWater-Cooled, Dry-Cooled20’, 40’Get a Quote
Flowers/PlantsDry-Cooled20’, 40’Get a Quote
Pharma/MedicalWater-Cooled20’, 40’Get a Quote
ChemicalsEthynol-Cooled20’, 40’Get a Quote
ElectronicsAir-Cooled, Dry-Cooled20’, 40’Get a Quote


Reefer containers are undeniably helpful for a variety of purposes and, depending on your requirements, can be the most viable solution.

Much like standard containers, reefers come in various sizes, depending on their use. Fortunately, most containers are manufactured according to standard sizes set by the International Organisation for Standardisation, making it simple to incorporate them into your existing systems and storage.

Traditionally, reefers come in 20ft, 40ft and 40 HC options. If you’re unsure what size reefer to invest in, contact your local container experts today. At Tiger Containers, we know all about shipping containers' intriguing and tedious elements. We are determined to help step you through the process of finding the right container for you!


Aside from allowing the pre-cooling time. There are a few other things to keep in mind when you call us about your reefer container needs.

These include the size of your shipment (of course), the temperature requirements for your goods, and whether or not you need to use a specialised loading dock or electrical supply.

When considering a refrigerated shipping container for sale or a refrigerated container for hire, these considerations apply.


When it comes to hiring or buying a refrigerated sea container, there are a few things to take into consideration. At the end of the day, you need a container that exactly matches your requirements and protects the cargo it is carrying or storing.

  1. Suitability for your needs – It pays to really have a think about the amount of space you require, what goods the refrigerated container will be used for and where the shipping container will be used so you can choose the appropriate power option. Three sizes are available 20ft, 40ft and 40ft high cube.
  2. The terms used - Containers are described using labels such as “one trip” – which as the name suggests have only been used on a single trip. This is the newest kind of second-hand container you can acquire with terms such as “as-is” being used to describe old (usually much worn) containers.
  3. Transportation certifications – You must also ensure the container you acquire has been inspected and declared seaworthy and/or cargo worthy, especially if you will be using your reefer for shipping.
  4. Construction materials – The quality of the shipping container cannot be under estimated, so you need to ensure the container is constructed using quality materials as this will affect its durability.
  5. The quality of the paint job - Containers that still have their factory paint coating are the best, but professionally repainted ones can also be as good. Containers described having “no shipping label” will have no company logo (or markings) and have one uniform colour.
  6. Weatherproofing – The shipping container must be able to weather any water, so make sure you inspect the container to ensure that it is completely water and windproof with proper sealing.
  7. The condition of the refrigeration mechanism - Ensure that the refrigeration mechanism is in good condition if the container will be used for refrigeration purposes. Mechanism is expensive to replace and any failure during use would mean damage to your goods.
  8. Interior condition - The interior walls, floor, and roof must be good shape, as they will be holding your cargo and goods. Don’t forget that the proper lining material must be used depending on what you will be using the container for.
  9. Aesthetics - If the container looks quite worn and damaged from observation, it probably is, so make sure to personally inspect the container before acquiring it.
  10. Is there a “no shipping label”? - This generally means that there is not a company logo on the container. This means that the container will be painted one colour and will not have a lot of other markings.
  11. How long are you going to need and use the container for? - Most importantly, you need to determine how long you will need and use the container for. If the container is for storage of perishable products but you only need it for a specific time frame, renting shipping containers with refrigeration might be a great option. We believe that this is the best path to go down because once your use of the container is at an end you can simply have the container removed. That way, you won’t have to worry about selling it or otherwise disposing of it.


If they look like regular containers and are built like standard containers, then how do they have the ability to function differently?

Essentially, reefer containers function via a constant supply of electricity, generally supplied by the vessel's power outlet or portable generators. They use this energy to maintain specified temperatures between -35 and +35 degrees Celsius regardless of external temperatures.

Technically speaking, the design of the container is crafted to ensure air can flow across the entire shipment correctly as a means to provide temperature regulation. As different goods require different temperatures, these reefer containers are also built to raise the cargo temperature when needed.

The container's control unit allows for setting and adjusting parameters such as temperature, humidity, ventilation, and atmosphere. The adjustable options mean that any type of cargo can be transported. Even fruits that require specific CO2 and O2 levels to ripen and stay fresh can be transported accordingly.


Reefers are powered with either an external power source, such as a generator, or by using the power from the ship's main engine, truck, or train that they're being transported on.

If you are using an external power source for an ethylene oxide reefer, then it's important to make sure that it is properly ventilated so that the ethylene oxide does not build up and become dangerous.

When choosing a reefer for your goods, it's important to consider what type of cargo you will be shipping and what environmental conditions are appropriate for that cargo. The easiest option is to simply call us, and we can help figure out the details.

Reefers can be used for various types of goods, including perishable foods, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals. Whether you're shipping sensitive electronics or fragile flowers, there is a reefer that can do the job.


While in the dock, reefers are powered when in the warehouse. The truck's diesel systems will provide power during land transportation, such as on the back of a truck.

The reefer will be connected to the ship's onboard power supply when crossing the sea.

These systems are 100% reliable, but what happens when there is an issue with the ship's electrical system?

In most cases, reefers come equipped with independent generators to keep them running in the event of a power outage.

In addition to redundancy at the dock, many reefers also have internal battery backup systems.

Reefers are built with other types of redundancies to prevent power loss.

For example, most reefers have two compressors instead of one. If one compressor fails, the other can take over. Plus, many have onboard backup power supplies to keep running even if there is a power outage. They've thought of everything!


According to a Global Newswire report; the reefer container market size is expected to reach 5,981,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in 2030, a 7.3% growth from the previous decade period.

With the popularity of these containers clearly on the rise, what are they being used for?


Convenient portable refrigeration is not easy to come by. Cold rooms are an option. However, they can be clunky and unreliable and lack the advantage of portability.

Reefer containers, on the contrary, have all these features and more, making them the obvious choice for portable refrigeration.

Catering for large events where lots of food is required can make things rather difficult, especially if you are not located somewhere with an industrial kitchen. Reefer containers are perfect for festivals, weddings or sports events where you likely don’t have close access to refrigeration but are using a lot more food than an esky can hold.

Using a reefer container also allows you to move it between different locations when required, which can be extremely handy if your event is on such a large scale.


Natural disasters and accidents are a part of life, no matter how much we don’t enjoy thinking about them. However, the recent SEQ and NSW floods have proven the importance of disaster solutions and the value of reliable everyday objects.

Thanks to power outages and the lack of access that generally arises throughout natural disasters, it can often be difficult to store and keep food for people who have been affected. Reefer containers provide an optimal solution to this dilemma by being both a vessel for food transportation and a means of storage.

A simple container with the ability to keep food cold for those who need it most is one of the most valuable assets in a time of need.


Running out of storage is not uncommon but has become an increasingly prevalent issue with the unpredictable fluctuations from the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, no matter the cause, if you are running out of cold storage space, it can be extremely difficult to source more, particularly in the required swift manner. Reefer containers, however, can provide a quick and fast solution to get your goods into optimal temperatures.

It is common to hire a few reefer containers to complement your existing warehouse or storage when required. This can occur if you purchase extra storage with the anticipation of demand spikes or if you have excess stock capacity.


Not only are reefer containers fantastic for refrigeration goods in alternative locations, but they can safely transport goods in a refrigerated manner.

The predominant perk of these containers is that they operate as fridges when they are stagnant and on the go. This means you can transport goods from one location to another without reducing quality.

Suppose you’re planning on catering for a ‘destination’ event that perhaps doesn’t have a nearby store. In that case, reefer containers allow you to use what goods you have, purchase other products beforehand, and transport them intact to your location.


You may not require a warehouse load of storage space, but perhaps you need general, temporary, temperature regulated storage facilities.

Reefer containers are for much more than commercial use, as their space, durability, and temperature control means you can customise their use to whatever your purpose may be.

Food storage is an everyday use for reefer containers, as they can keep the internal temperature cool and ensure proper air circulation so that the food is not spoilt. If you are in the florist business or perhaps you’re an avid gardener, reefer containers can also be extremely useful for transporting and storing flowers.

Additionally, as any wine connoisseur would know, wines can be highly temperamental. Transporting wines across the country can be tedious to ensure their quality, as any change in temperature can cause them to go bad. Transporting and storing them in reefer containers ensures the temperature can be specialised and controlled.


This is the question on so many minds, but these reefers are for more than just holding frozen food. The space and durability of a regular shipping container, plus the temperature control of a regular refrigeration unit, makes it so you can store and hold the below:


We all know that reefers were primarily invented to store and transport large quantities of food or perishable goods, which includes seafood, meat and poultry, dairy products, and fruits and vegetables. It’s scary to think that without reefers, there would be no way for people to get fresh produce all year round. Reefers are able not only to keep their internal temperature cool but also ensure proper air circulation necessary to prevent food spoilage, which makes for the perfect method of transportation and storage for fresh and local produce.


It’s always a pity when flowers arrive on your doorstep and they are wilting. Luckily, reefers are commonly used to transport this perishable item, allowing people from all over the country to have access to fresh flowers. Thanks to refrigerated containers, flowers can be transported from South America, Europe and Asia.

Another favourite item also transported regularly through refrigerated containers are wines. Not many people realise that wines can be temperamental when it comes to transporting them across the country, with any change in temperature causing them to go bad. This is why it’s important that they’re transported in specialised, temperature-controlled reefer containers.
More and more catering companies and event coordinators have started using or hiring reefers for their services and events, because of their ability to keep food, flowers and wine fresh and at their best.


If you’re a big fan of the latest Hollywood film, you’ll be interested to know that reefers help make your favourite films possible. Reefers can transport movie props and equipment, especially when filming in harsh environments or extreme outdoor locations, which can save a production company millions of dollars in damaged props and equipment.


One of the most important items moved by reefers is life-saving medicines. Many medicines require refrigeration and ventilation technologies during transport across the country and the world, which only reefers can provide. These days, with an increasing number of medicines now being transported on reefers, the cost of many medicines also decreased, giving more people access to these much-needed medicines.

Because of this ability to store and transport large quantities of medicines as well as food, reefers have become very useful in military operations and disaster management.


There are plenty of benefits for you to reap if you choose to hire or buy a reefer for your storage or moving needs. We’ve compiled a list below of the benefits of investing in a refrigerated shipping container:

  1. Flexibility – A reefer can provide more flexibility when it comes to your storage needs. Reefers allow racks and partitions to be installed if you need to store smaller items or remove them when you want to store larger items. You can also store goods that don’t need refrigeration.
  2. Easy transportation - Reefers makes for super easy transportation of cargo and goods due to being compatible with all container handling equipment, which means that you can utilise the available infrastructure to move them around.
  3. Easy setup – You don’t have to worry about complicated and messy set ups. A refrigerated shipping container is easy to set up at the site where it is required, all you need is flat ground and you can set it down and it’s ready.
  4. Varied power options - The container can either be powered from the mains or using fuel.
  5. Durability - All shipping containers, reefers included, are built to withstand the harsh conditions of the sea and rough treatment during transportation which makes them very durable.When used to transport perishable goods, refrigerated cargo containers are beneficial in the following ways:
  6. Reduced handling costs – Your shipment will ride on existing infrastructure to keep transportation costs at a minimum, with standardised container handling equipment all over the world.
  7. Easy transhipment - Just like regular containers, reefers can be moved seamlessly from one mode of transport to another without the need to offload the cargo.
  8. Reduced packaging expenses - Because the refrigerated container already provides adequate protection from damage, goods being transported don’t require elaborate packaging.
  9. Minimised risk of pilferage and damage - Shipping containers are well known for their robust and secure build, not to mention keeping your goods safe from theft, physical damage and the elements.


We pride ourselves on providing first-class and high-quality reefers and containers to our many customers across Australia. Here are some examples of refrigerated container orders we have fulfilled recently.

Here are some examples of refrigerated container orders we have fulfilled recently.


For this customer, we converted a 20ft refrigerated container into a 10ft chiller. We also fitted it with a quick release door with a release valve to make it easy to operate.

The chiller is designed to draw power from a 240 volt – 15 amp power source and can maintain a temperature range of between -5 and 4 degrees.

Similar chillers are available for hire or purchase and would make a perfect addition for events and businesses looking for extra chiller space.


For this order, the customer wanted us to fit a centralised door and finish off the modification with a black coat of paint for the entire reefer. We were able to do the modifications with great success adding another satisfied customer to our books.


Recently, a customer who had space restrictions came to us looking for a viable outdoor cool room alternative. After discussing the options, we decided to reduce the length of standard reefer to 4.8 metres so that it could fit in his allocated space.

Because the reefer would be a tight fit in the available space, opening the doors would be an issue, so we had to come up with a solution for that. We designed and installed butcher doors that open from the LHS and slide to the right allowing users access despite the confined space.
Since the container was to be used as a freezer, constantly running at -20 degrees, we needed to install a heat strip to keep the doors from freezing up; which we did.

We also installed 2 freezer lights inside to enable the customer to work inside the reefer with the door closed and finished off the job with a light grey paint job for a beautiful finish.


Here at Tiger Containers, we’ve thought of everything!

So, by now, we hope you understand what reefers do, the available types, and which cooling type should suit your needs. Whether you need a reefer container for sale or a refrigerated container for hire, we can help.

All you need to do now is call your nearest branch based on your location, and our expert team will walk you through the rest.

Need a shipping container for your upcoming project? Tiger Containers provides quality new and used shipping containers at competitive prices. Our team of qualified and experienced technicians will also help you make the modifications you require to meet your needs.

Call us for a free quotation: 1800 072 039.

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