Rail Transport of Reefer Containers: 7 Major Myths
Myth #1: If the goods have been defrosted, container will freeze it during the way
Container, in spite of the fact that it has the refrigeration unit, can maintain the temperature of the goods. It can lower the temperature of relatively light goods by 1-2 degrees. But it cannot freeze or lower the temperature of frozen goods, especially heavy, such as briquettes of frozen meat or fish. It is not designed for this purpose.
Be sure to monitor and record by yourselves or through your representatives or a surveyor the condition of the goods at the time of its release from the warehouse to the carrier. The carrier shall not accept for carriage the cargo, the temperature of which is not as specified in the documents, or does not comply with the conditions of carriage.
Notional value per container
(vertical - Notional value, across - Number of containers)
Myth #2: You can carry one refrigerated container
Yes, you can. But economically it is not always appropriate. Technology of refrigerated containers transport is that they are accompanied by a diesel generator wagon. The costs of this wagon are virtually independent of the number of accompanied containers. If you take the unit cost of transporting one container in the block train of six containers and the diesel generator wagon, the dependence of the transporting cost of one container from the length of the block train will be approximately as follows (see. Figure).
In such a situation, it may be advantageous to use a truck or wait for the accumulation of larger consignment.
Myth #3: Freight forwarder is responsible for everything
The task of railway freight forwarder is to ensure and facilitate customer’s access to the railways services, i.e. to implement the maximum of functions for the customer’s convenience: collection and issuing of necessary documents, providing them at the station of departure; providing (if necessary) of containers and rolling stock for loading including its own specialized rolling stock; coordination with all railway services all issues concerning the shipment and/or acceptance of the goods. When transporting reefers, the freight forwarder who provided the refrigerated block train and refrigerated containers for transport, is responsible for maintaining the goods temperature in containers during the way. But at the same time, the carrier directly responsible for the process of transportation and for the integrity of the cargo is the railway. If in the course of transportation the loss or damage of goods occurs through the fault of the railway, the right to bring claims to the railway belongs to the consigner or the consignee – to that of the parties to the contract of carriage, which suffered direct losses. The task of the freight forwarder in such a situation is to do everything for the most complete and rapid recovery of customer’s loss. Much depends on the actions of the customer and the consignee, on behalf of whom the freight forwarder acts, when they receive the goods.
Insure your shipment. If the consignee is your customer or your agent - instruct him/her about the action when a lack of cargo is detected. Do it yourself or instruct your freight forwarder.
Myth #4: Container must be loaded up to the ceiling
Maintain the desired temperature in the container is carried out due to the continuous forced air circulation inside the container. Equipment in the rear part of the container cools or heats the air and blows it between goods, walls, floor and ceiling of the container. The floor and walls of the container have corrugated surface that allows air to flow around the goods. But along the ceiling the air masses should move freely. Therefore, refrigerated containers have the so-called “red line”, above which the goods are not placed. This allows you to leave the ceiling space with a height of 20-25 cm to be sufficient for the normal functioning of the container. Otherwise, the air circulation is disturbed; the goods begin to "lose" the temperature and are at risk to become useless.
Demand from your representatives during the loading to control the correct stowage. Before closing the container, request to take photos of stowage.
Myth #5: Railway transport requires much time and money
Usually this is true for short distances - up to 1.5-2 thousand.km. At long distances, the speed of delivery becomes comparable to the road. Especially, taking into account possible delays of motor transport at the borders or due to any technical reasons. As for the cost, it is also partly true only for short distances. At long distances there are discounts provided by the railways for a certain mileage. These discounts can reach 50% or more. At long distances, rail transport is becoming more competitive.
If transport is planned for a distance of several hundred kilometers, and the volume of cargo is measured by several tens of tons – then use trucking. If the distance is longer than 1.5-2 thousand km. or you plan regular transport of hundreds or thousands of tons, most likely the railroads will suit you better.
Myth #6: The transportation cost is the sum of railway tariffs throughout all territories
Railway tariff is not the only component of the rail transportation cost, though usually the most significant. Railway tariff is the fee for carrying goods in the railway carriage. The second part of the cost is the payment for the carriage itself, for the use of it. In the case of refrigerated containers transport this fare includes the block train operation, rental of containers, if the containers are provided together with the block train, the cost of fuel for the diesel generator wagon, salary of the mechanics crew accompanying the block train, and a number of other costs associated with rolling stock. The third component is a different kind of expenses at the departure and destination stations. The overall composition is usually dependent on the terms of the contract between the customer and the carrier.
Specifying the rate for the transportation of your goods, be sure to ask - what is included in this rate.
Myth #7: Carriages in the block train can be decoupled during the way, then part of the containers will be left without power supply and the goods in them will become corrupted
The block train cannot be decoupled during the way. Shipping documents are issued to it in accordance with the rules in such a way that excludes such a possibility at the intermediate stations. The only place where decoupling is possible is when loading or unloading - if the lengths of the paths or ramps are shorter than the entire block train. In this case, the platforms gradually, as appropriate, are coupled or decoupled from the block train.
Check with your freight forwarder - whether the block train will be decoupled during loading and unloading. For how long the loaded containers will stay without connection. Make sure that the forwarder will ensure the timely connection of all loaded containers to the power supply.