Guide Released on Moving Cargo in Non-Operating Reefers


Two container industry bodies have published an in-depth guide for those seeking to use refrigerated containers in a non-operating mode to carry commodities not requiring temperature control. 

The Container Owners Association (COA) and the Cargo Incident Notification System (CINS), with support from freight transport insurer TT Club, have developed guidelines that give extensive advice on the risks involved and correct packing to protect both container and cargo.

The use of ‘non-operating reefers’ (NOR) is a widespread practice in the industry and has a significant impact in reducing empty repositioning costs for container operators.

However, both COA and CINS are keen that all involved, including shippers, forwarders, packers and terminals are fully appraised of best practices in the use of such containers. 

The new document, entitled “Guidelines for the Carriage of Cargoes in Non-Operating Reefer Containers”, outlines NOR handling and the design differences between a reefer container and a regular general purpose unit.


Guidance includes why operators moving NORs should be wary of internal dimensions, vulnerable insulation, weight distribution and expensive refrigeration machinery


View transport and logistics insurance solutions from TT Club

The guidelines also present recommendations on the approval of NOR cargo, with advice on contamination and security.

Uffe Ernst-Frederiksen – Maersk Line’s Head of Cargo Management and Chairman of CINS and Deputy Chairman of the COA, said: “Repositioning expensive reefer units after they have been emptied at destination is a constant challenge for container operators.

“There is often insufficient temperature controlled cargo for the return leg of a reefer’s journey and therefore the unit has to be repositioned empty.

“On busy trade lanes, empty reefers are competing for slot space with revenue earning dry cargo, so the NOR solution is attractive. 

“However, care must be taken when loading NOR cargo, to avoid disproportionate costs being incurred in cargo loss and container damage.”

Peregrine Storrs-Fox, TT Club’s Risk Management Director, said: “These guidelines will be extremely useful in helping operators, shippers and those responsible for packing NORs make decisions that will project both cargo and reefer unit from such loss and damage.

“TT Club is therefore very pleased to have worked with COA and CINS in producing this valuable document.”

The topic of how to avoid major incidents when loading cargo is examined in 'Safety Initiatives: A Prime Tool', a technical paper by Storrs-Fox.

Read more: Learn why containers are the best method of ensuring safe and sound delivery when transporting cargo from one place to another

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