Cold air for fresh bananas

It does not take long after purchase for a banana to lose its appealing yellow colour and fresh consistency. It quickly becomes overripe if stored at room temperature, and if placed in a refrigerator it loses its yellow colour and consistency.

"Like every fruit, bananas have their own ideal temperature for ripening and storage," explains Anders Gamborg Holm.

As General Manager for Sales and Marketing at Maersk Container Industry he represents the world's second largest manufacturer of refrigerated containers and refrigeration units for containers. This is why he has studied the ripening process of fruits very carefully.

"We strive to fully appreciate the realities our customers' customers face and understand their needs in detail, so we can give their goods the best conditions during transportation," says Anders Gamborg Holm.

Making the world smaller
The temperature of a container from Maersk Container Industry can be adjusted between -30 and 30°C, to perfectly suit whatever goods are being transported. The latest product variant also allows the levels of CO2 and oxygen in the air to be controlled.

"We call it 'controlled atmosphere'," explains Anders Gamborg Holm.

"Using this system, we can stop fruit from ripening, so that the maximum transportation time is doubled compared to other refrigerated containers – up to as much as 50 days. This has a major impact, for example, on expanding the market for fruit growers in a number of Central American countries, where production of mangoes, avocados and other fruits far exceeds what can be sold locally during the short season.

Withstanding harsh environments
The delicate treatment of the goods inside the containers stands in stark contrast to the extreme conditions they are exposed to on the ships and in the harbours. Kim Axelsen, an engineer in Refrigeration, Research and Development at Maersk Container Industry, knows all about this, as it is his job to test whether the containers can withstand the worst conceivable conditions.

"It is not unusual for a crane to drop a container from a height of one metre, or for a wave to wash over an entire container. The refrigeration system in the container must be able to handle this, and much more," he explains.

The vast majority of refrigeration systems from Maersk Container Industry use three Grundfos motors. One provides ventilation for the refrigeration unit's condenser, while the other two provide the required ventilation inside the container by blowing cool air along the floor of the container and up to the goods.

"If the motors fail, the low temperature setting cannot be maintained and there is a great risk of the cargo being lost," explains Kim Axelsen.

A growing market
This is why Maersk Container Industry sets stringent requirements for the motors, according to Technical Purchaser René Nielsen.

"From the outset, we told Grundfos that we expected the motors to offer the best possible value for the price, in terms of performance, durability, reliability, and especially energy consumption," he explains.

The motors share some of the credit for the fact that the refrigeration unit from Maersk Container Industry uses 20 percent less energy than competing systems. The low energy consumption is also a major reason why the demand for refrigerated containers is growing by five percent annually on the world market.

"Air transport emits 50 times as much CO₂ as corresponding ocean transport," notes Anders Gamborg Holm. 

Maersk Container Industry is the only company in the world which produces both refrigerated containers and refrigeration units for containers, and the second largest global player on both fronts.

The company is a subsidiary of the A.P. Møller-Maersk shipping, trade and industrial company and has its headquarters in Denmark, while the refrigerated containers are produced in China and Chile.

The Grundfos motors were specially developed for Maersk Container Industry and are produced in such large volumes that they have their own production line at the factory in Hungary.