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Service providers have changed from doubts to approval of integrated reefers

Service providers have changed from doubts to approval of integrated reefers

Most industries have their own guidelines, traditions and standards. To be successful in a particular market, it generally makes sense to respect and comply with these. However, back in 2008, MCI challenged existing standards within the intermodal industry by introducing the integrated reefer design. Although reefers had been constructed as boxes and units bolted together for decades, MCI introduced a new integrated reefer design in which the reefer unit was integrated into the reefer box itself.

Industry scepticism
From the outset, the integrated reefer design was met by scepticism within the industry. One of those who was unconvinced was Ben Van Driel Vis, Depot and Repair Shop Manager at Star Container in Rotterdam, who service about 30,000 reefers annually. For this reason, easy repair availability and cost effectiveness are essential to their business. Ben said: "I did have my doubts about the new design, for sure – mainly because it was no longer possible to dismount the unit and repair the reefer box separately". As a service provider, reduced repair availability is always a concern.

"Now, years later, I have had to change my point of view", he explained. "We have had some total loss reefers, but they really were total losses, due to the fact that there was excessive damage to both the reefer box and the reefer unit." This statement matches MCI’s own research. Repair statistics showed that only 0.15% of reefer units were dismounted and changed during their total lifetime. In reality, it is very rare that an entire reefer unit is replaced.

In any event, in the case of total loss, it is still possible to move and refit any undamaged Star Cool parts into a new box, thanks to the reefer’s modular design. MCI has already demonstrated this possibility in cooperation with TAL the owner and MOL the operator of a total loss integrated reefer (see IR News 4/2011).

Increased box strength
Ben Van Driel Vis has even discovered some repair advantages: "The strength of the integrated design is much greater than the previous designs." This increased strength is the result of the fully welded end wall on the integrated reefer. "Due to the strength of the integrated design, I believe that any repair is possible without affecting the overall strength of the box", Ben observed. Even though the integrated reefer has extra strength, eliminating the unit frame has resulted in a 100 kg reduction in overall weight.

Improved refrigeration properties
In addition to increased strength, the integrated design eliminates the thermal bridges that always occur when the reefer unit is bolted onto the reefer box. This reduces heat leakage and improves the reefer’s energy efficiency.

Doing away with the unit frame also makes it possible to distribute the air coming from the reefer machine across the total width of the reefer box. This provides the reefer with improved airflow characte-ristics.

Today, five years after the introduction of the new design, nearly 100,000 integrated reefers are in operation with over 25 shipping lines, leasing companies and shippers worldwide. As Ben concluded, "the integrated concept has proven to be a real success".

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