Reefer container interiors harmed by disinfectant chemicals

Disinfection and fumigation of reefer containers is a standard requirement at different locations around the world to protect the local population, environment and agriculture. Although it’s common practice, the likelihood for a reefer to undergo such treatment has been relatively low. This has changed radically since early 2020 when the Covid-19 virus broke out globally and disinfection of imported reefer containers and cargo started to be implemented in China. As a rough estimate about 1/3 of the world reefer fleet passes the country every year. It’s been found that the chemicals being used can severely damage the interior stainless-steel panels of reefers as well as aluminium t-floors and other interior components.

The chemicals required to be used are chlorine-based bleach which is an aggressive substance, and corrosion is the result. The damage is highly visible on the interior panels, but there are concerns that the reefer machinery which is not as visible could also be affected by the disinfectant which is applied liberally in spray form.

The issue is being seen on all brands of reefer container and from all vintages. The Institute of International Container Lessors (IICL) has made great efforts in collecting information and documentation about the subject and on September 1st they released a technical alert.

On September 28th an inspection guidance was released and was later followed on October 11th with an addendum including recommended damage mitigation.

Above photos from the IICL report depict typical damage resulting from contaminated panels after spraying with harmful chemicals.

The IICL strongly recommends that all refrigerated containers have the interior steam cleaned or, at least, high-pressure washed as soon as cargo is devanned.This practice alone is not a final solution or remedy to the harmful effects of the chemicals being sprayed but a practical attempt to lessen the extent of damage to the equipment.

Click here to read the full IICL report