What is the difference between containerships and reefer ships?

Difference between containerships and reefer ships

Different cargo ships, including containership and reefer ships, sail the international waters daily and carry large-scale shipments across long distances. Maritime shipping is essential to global trade as it allows different types of cargo ships to help ease transporting of goods internationally. Maritime shipping can carry all sorts of finished and manufactured goods in the solid, liquid or gaseous state. The cargo ships help increase operational efficiency and facilitate faster loading, unloading and delivery to the destination ports. The most commonly used types of cargo ships are reefer ships and containerships. While reefer ships transport perishable goods, containerships can transport all types. Let us learn about the difference between containerships and reefer ships. 

Importance of maritime shipping 

Maritime shipping is transporting goods and passengers via sea routes across international waters. The sea witnesses large amounts of sailings annually with cruise ships, cargo ships, containerships and other types of ships. Shipping is an economical way of transporting goods, containers and passengers abroad. The industries associated with maritime shipping range from pharmaceuticals to food heavy equipment to automobiles, serving reliable passage for various commodities. Existing for years, maritime shipping has become an integral part of the supply chain and acts as a backbone for the global trade business that drives the global economy. Ships can transport goods in all states, including solid, liquid and gaseous.   

With the green initiative, the maritime industry is moving towards cleaner and greener shipping to reduce the greenhouse emissions caused during shipping. Most exporters book a shipping carrier to transport their goods by carrying out documentation such as  bills of lading. The goods are then loaded into containers to be hauled off to their destination. 

What is a containership? 

A containership is a cargo ship structured and designed primarily to accommodate and transport shipping containers across borders. It helps transport dry bulk goods loaded onto intermodal shipping containers through containerised shipping. They are also known as “box ships” and encourage loading all types of shipping containers to facilitate global trade. Since its introduction in maritime shipping, the build of containerships has improved significantly to integrate technological trends in the maritime industry. It carries manufactured goods to assist the shipping industry in freight transportation. The cargo is loaded overboard by workers, vehicles and equipment to ensure specialised cargo handling and avoid cargo damage. For example- containerships transport goods such as food products, raw materials for manufacturing, electronics, clothing, etc. 

Benefits of containerships 

  1. Versatility– Various sizes and designs of containerships in maritime allow easy transportation of different types of shipping containers. The tonnage of containerships may vary based on their designs, which is further based on the route it travels. 
  2. Facilitates global trade– Containerships have been built to streamline international shipping and organise seamless voyages for cargo across various canals. It facilitates global trade relations. 
  3. Sustainability– Technology integration into containerships, automation, and green initiatives are a few ways containerships help control shipping emissions during transportation. 

What is a reefer ship? 

Reefer ships are types of cargo ships that are suited for carrying only perishable goods across international waters. Perishable goods shipping involves loading and transporting cargo such as meat, beverages, pharmaceuticals, organs, and dairy across the border. These goods are carefully loaded onto reefer vessels. The goods inside reefer ships are stored at low temperatures, and therefore, reefer ships act as suitable means to maintain the cold chain throughout the voyage. Since these goods are temperature sensitive, they require special handling and storage; otherwise, the chances of spoilage and damage become common. Therefore, these goods must be preserved and monitored to ensure that the cargo quality and shelf-life are maintained upon reaching the destination. These ships are refrigerated ones integrated with cooling systems to regulate the temperatures and keep them low and suitable according to the requirements of the goods.

Benefits of reefer ship 

  1. Global trade– The advanced refrigeration system in reefer ships enables importers and exporters to trade in perishables easily and gives them access to a worldwide market to get sensitive goods. Since reefer ships reduce spoilage and waste of goods, they help boost the global economy. 
  2. Fresh availability– Traders can get a fresh stock of goods anytime around the year. It’s easier to import locally unavailable goods in reefer ships while preserving the shelf life of perishables. Seasonal fruits and vegetables can be made available to consumers throughout the year. 
  3. Reduced use of chemical preservatives– If not for reefer vessels, perishables goods are preserved using chemicals to slow their decay or damage process and keep their quality intact. The conserved environment of reefer ships removes the need for adding preservatives, contributing to healthier and more natural products reaching their customers. 
  4. Versatility– The refrigeration technology in reefer ships is advanced enough to easily accommodate goods ranging from fresh and frozen food products to organs and pharmaceuticals. Since different goods require storage at different temperatures, the temperatures can be controlled and monitored at all times based on the requirements of the goods. 
  5. Environment-friendly– The call for green shipping by the IMO has been registered by reefer ships. They are being designed with new technologies to enable environment-friendly shipping with reduced carbon footprints.

What is the difference between containerships and reefer ships? 

Although both vessels lie in the category of cargo ships, let us learn about the difference between containerships and reefer ships. 

  1. Type of cargo– Container ships can carry different types of cargo ranging from dry to bulk in any state – liquid, solid or gas. Shipments, such as electronics, machinery or fragile and hazardous goods, are packed into shipping containers and then loaded onto containerships to be shipped internationally. On the other hand, reefer ships are specialised ships built to specifically ship temperature-sensitive cargo such as fruits, vegetables, pharmaceuticals, etc.  
  2. Temperature requirement– Containerships can accommodate reefer containers with power back and specially assigned spaces to ship reefer containers. The rest of the cargo does not require specific temperature standards for shipping goods. In contrast, reefer ships are specifically built to function in temperature-regulated conditions. The temperature of reefer ships varies according to the cargo requirements.  
  3. Ship size– The tonnage of ships may vary from one design to another depending on the ship’s build. Depending on the equipment and vehicles installed in the ship, the gross and net tonnage of the vessel fluctuates. Containerships do not require a large specialised unit for storing goods; reefer ships are constructed with specialised power backup systems that require extra space. 
  4. Sustainability– Containerships release less shipping emissions and consume less power to operate. In contrast, reefer ships consume more energy to keep the unit running and maintain the temperature of shipments. The IMO is working to increase the sustainability in the supply chain to reduce its environmental impact. 

How are containers loaded and unloaded on cargo ships? 

There is not much difference between containerships and reefer ships loading since both are cargo ships. Goods in the maritime industry are loaded and unloaded onto cargo ships using different vehicles, equipment and workers.  

  1. Containers are stuffed with goods at the container depot or terminal under supervision to ensure container inspection by customs officials.  
  2. Freight containers are then brought by vehicles such as forklifts and cranes to the yard for loading.  
  3. Containers in the yard are then loaded onto containerships with the help of workers and vehicles.  
  4. It is followed by container lashing. Containers are stacked and lashed together with the help of lashing rods,  onto bridges and with each other to secure containers from falling on board.  
  5. The lashing is carefully removed to unload, and containers are de-stacked and transferred to the yard on the destination port.  

The difference between containerships and reefer ships makes reefer ships ideal for temperature-sensitive shipments and containerships suitable for carrying bulk goods internationally.  

LOTUS Containers are leading marketers of different types of containers across the globe. We offer buying and leasing reefer containers of different dimensions to suit all client needs.

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