Research: 2016-2020

What trends and developments can be found in the field of smart refrigerated containers, the so-called reefer containers?



What trends and developments can be found in the field of smart refrigerated containers and what will their impact be. Purchasing costs for these containers are high as well as the costs of use and maintenance. How can business cases concerning these smart containers be improved? Sensors in the containers provide data about the indoor climate which is essential for the preservation and ripening of vegetables, fruit, flowers and other fresh cargo. On the one hand the data enable more efficient cargo management and additional services. On the other hand complexity of the handling increases and the number of smart cooling containers is growing. By offering good solutions for the opportunities as well as the difficulties, the port of Rotterdam provides additional services.

New technology in and around the smart containers allows for additional services such as coordinated conditioning of the cargo and accurate track and trace. The containers enable new logistics models to shift cargo from air freight to shipping. A growth in the use of this type of container is therefore expected. The risk of loss of cargo is higher with refrigerated containers than with standard containers. Growth of this type of container therefore complicates the logistical processes at the terminal and those in the connection to follow-up transport. A good approach is therefore necessary and creates many opportunities.


  • New high-quality cargo flows – The increase in the use of smart refrigerated containers provides the port of Rotterdam with more and new high-quality cargo flows. They also offer additional handling activities. The competitiveness of the port strengthens using Dutch knowledge and science (Wageningen University).
  • Asset management – Improved capabilities of the reefer systems enable improved quality control of the cargo.
  • Data driven logistics – Data driven logistics enables high value logistics for the port.
  • Predictive maintenance – Maintenance businesses check the operation of the cooling systems in the containers. Predictive maintenance results in positive effects on services and costs.
  • Optimizing logistics chains – Optimizing logistics chains as a whole through efficient use of smart containers.
  • Energy – Monitoring and improving energy use.


  • Just in time – Organize just in time logistics, which is necessary for proper handling of these containers.
  • Data transparency – Just in time logistics requires the availability and exchange of data. Who shares what data with whom?
  • Change in culture – For getting the maximum potential out of the exploitation of these containers, commitment of the various parties involved is required.
  • Legal framework – Adjusting contracts and dealing with liability.


  • Extra cargo flows (modal and port shift).
  • The port of Rotterdam as a whole offers more added value.


ASEA Brown Boveri (ABB), Flora Holland, Fresh Produce Centre (GroentenFruit Huis), Hutchison Ports – ECT, Seamark Reefer Services
Erasmus University Rotterdam, TU Delft, Wageningen University & Research (WUR)

This project is part of the Smart Logistics roadmap. For more information about this project or this roadmap, please contact project developer Anique Kuijpers.