How to Prevent Exploding Reefer Plugs & Connectors


Those who have plugged in Refrigerated Containers (a.k.a “reefers”) know firsthand that water intrusion can cause reefer plugs and connectors to explode.  This is extremely dangerous and can result in injury to the operator, damage to the plug, receptacle, and surrounding equipment.  And obviously, the refrigerated cargo is no longer being cooled.  Experienced operators will even shake the plug prior to plugging in; if they suspect water is inside they know better than to energize the plug.

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Be Proactive: Help Prevent Container Drive-offs

Many key factors play a role in getting cargo in & out of ports and on the road to their final destination. In the process of getting reefer containers from one destination to the next, it is important that precautionary measures are taken to mitigate the occurrence and impact of accidents and safety hazards.

Drive-offs in a port terminal happen when an operator moves refrigerated cargo containers while they are still connected to an electrical source such as a rack mount reefer outlet assembly (Fig. 1 & 2). When a drive-off occurs, the plug or receptacle are in danger of breaking away. This breakaway can result in damage to equipment and infrastructure. In addition, and more importantly, it could also create hazardous conditions.

Aside from being dangerous, damage to refrigerated cargo containers can also be costly. In addition to repair or replacement cost, disruption to operations due to the unavailability of the reefer container slot corresponding to the damaged reefer outlet should be considered. Drive-offs are especially disruptive in automated container terminals. For safety reasons the automated operation must be stopped in the all or part of the stacking row while repairs are performed. Units must be repaired quickly in order to allow operation to continue and reduce financial loss.

Port Drive-off

In order to minimize drive-offs, ESL recommends plug sensing devices which can be added to Reefer Outlet assemblies. This solution contains a dry contact micro switch powered by a secondary source which can be used to help trigger a warning system (visual or integrated to TOS). This proactive option helps limit damage caused by human error which in turn, reduces operational costs and the need for replacement receptacles.

When it comes to breakaways, ESL offers receptacles made from polyamide, a non-metallic material designed to break easier under stress, preventing further damage to other components of the Reefer Outlet Assembly. This allows for easy replacement of broken receptacles and less operational time lost.

With increased education about the dangers of port drive-offs, and implementing precautions such as Safety-interlocked cord connected devices, injury and cost can be minimized. Learn more about ESL and how we can help keep your port safe by visiting our Intermodal page or contact us!

ESL’s Watertight Plug Install Video

ESL’s complete line of refrigerated container plugs and connectors are designed to withstand wet marine environments and ensure a watertight seal. Watch our recent video to learn how to correctly install ESL’s watertight plugs and connectors.  Visit ESL’s Reefer Plugs, Connectors & Accessories page for further information on our product.

Want to see more videos like this? Watch ESL’s Magic Watertight Plug Video and see ESL’s playful take on a water ingress test.

Tips to Perform Maintenance Checks on Reefer Outlets


One thing many of us have in common is the tendency to procrastinate – like avoiding trips to the dentist. As we all know, not routinely taking care of those chompers will more than likely result in added cost and agony later down the road, but we still might choose to skip the appointment. Neglecting to routinely maintain electrical equipment, such as reefer outlets, can also result is the same negative consequences – added cost and severe pain.

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