| Written by Jordi Asensio Carbo

The global trade in perishable goods such as fruit, vegetables, and frozen goods, as well as pharmaceuticals and various temperature-sensitive electronics, relies heavily on the use of refrigerated containers called reefers.

In addition to adequate packaging, correct storage within the container and the correct settings, seamless temperature monitoring is a central factor for successful transport. Integration with Terminal Operations Systems (TOS), like Navis N4, is a crucial advantage for real-time monitoring.

Navis N4 TOS

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In 2023, the market size for reefers was 4,004,700 TEU. This year, it is expected to grow to 4,306,000. The forecast for 2030 says an increase to 7,142,800 TEU. This means a growth rate (CAGR) of 8.8%. The largest region for reefer logistics is Asia-Pacific, and the fastest-growing region is Latin America (1). In monetary terms, the refrigerated container market was worth approximately $9.33 billion in 2023 and is expected to grow to roughly $20.09 billion by 2032. This represents an annual CAGR of 8.9% between 2024 and 2032 (2). 

The drivers behind this development are the construction of new trade routes, and based on industry segmentation, the food segment is assumed to dominate the global market.

While other goods can sometimes still be used even if they are slightly damaged, this is not the case with perishable goods. Food for which the cold chain has been interrupted almost always has to be completely disposed of. This can sometimes result in immense costs--consider the prices for high-quality seafood and beef. Therefore, gapless monitoring of compliance with the cold chain is essential.

The two most important parameters when monitoring refrigerated containers are the power supply and temperature. Both must be checked at regular intervals, but automated and continuous monitoring in real-time is, of course, better.


Automated Reefer Monitoring

Manually checking reefer conditions has one major disadvantage. Even if checks are carried out more often than the usual one or two times per shift, there are still more extended periods of time in which the temperature can rise dangerously, and it is too late to take countermeasures.

Refrigerated containers rely on a continuous power supply. However, there are situations in which you have to do without electricity for a certain period. The periods during which they may be cut off from supplies during unloading and loading must be strictly adhered to. Likewise, so-called shuffling moves, such as the repositioning of reefers in different slots of the rack, must be carried out as quickly as possible.

If critical durations are exceeded, an automated monitoring system can send alerts. This enables quick intervention and prevents the temperatures from being no longer guaranteed due to the lack of power supply.

But even with an ongoing power supply, temperature fluctuations can be dangerous for perishable goods. To be notified early enough, preliminary alarm stages can also be set up. These can be displayed as information above a specific temperature. If the temperature continues to rise, warnings will be sent. If a critical value is reached, the system sends alerts.

Automated and remote reefer monitoring is possible on the way (mobile) and when stationary (like in a container terminal). The difference is that in container terminals, automated reefer monitoring is connected to the terminal's Terminal Operating System, whereas the mobile version is self-reliant. 


Navis N4 Terminal Operating System

In general, a Terminal Operating System (TOS) is a digital platform that helps track and manage all the supply chain operations at the cargo ports and terminals. The most popular TOS in the container world is Navis N4: Navis N4 is the market leader among terminal operating systems and is used by around 50% of the most relevant container terminals globally. 

The Navis N4 TOS features a highly scalable architecture built on an advanced metadata-driven model with configurable business rules. This cutting-edge technology platform offers terminals access to the industry's most advanced optimization modules, helping them avoid costly customizations and reducing administrative and customer support expenses.

N4 is a versatile and scalable modern platform, uniquely supporting multi-facility operational visibility and control. Key features include:

  • Various user interfaces 
  • Real-time monitoring of operational and performance data
  • Historical reporting and trend analysis through Navis Analytics
  • General cargo management, including cargo lot management and receipt/delivery via gate, vessel, and rail
  • Container freight station management
  • Service order management for terminal equipment, vessels, and rail
  • Vessel operations configuration and management
  • Yard operations configuration and management


Navis N4 and reefer management

The Navis N4 API for reefers provides comprehensive tools to manage and monitor refrigerated containers (reefers) within a terminal. The API offers various functions that facilitate the efficient handling of reefers, ensuring they are properly maintained and monitored to preserve the integrity of their temperature-sensitive cargo.

The key features and functions of Navis N4 API to handle a remote reefer monitoring system are:

  1. Reefer Monitoring:
    • Real-Time Data Collection: The API enables the collection of real-time data from reefer containers, including temperature, humidity, and other critical parameters.
    • Alerts and Notifications: Automated alerts and notifications can be set up to inform terminal operators of any deviations from the set parameters, ensuring timely intervention.
  2. Reefer Management:
    • Status Tracking: Track the status of each reefer container, including its operational condition, power status, and maintenance requirements.
    • Location Tracking: Monitor the precise location of reefer containers within the terminal, facilitating easy access and efficient handling.
  3. Maintenance and Service Scheduling:
    • Automated Scheduling: Schedule regular maintenance and service checks for reefers to ensure they are operating correctly and efficiently.
    • Service History Logging: Maintain a log of all maintenance and service activities performed on each reefer container, aiding in compliance and operational oversight.
  4. Integration with Terminal Operations:
    • Seamless Integration: Integrate reefer management with other terminal operations, such as gate processing, yard management, and vessel operations, to ensure smooth and coordinated handling of reefers.
    • Customizable Business Rules: Configure business rules specific to reefer handling, ensuring that the unique requirements of refrigerated cargo are met consistently.
  5. Analytics and Reporting:
    • Operational Analytics: Generate detailed reports and analytics on reefer operations, helping to identify trends, optimize performance, and reduce operational costs.
    • Historical Data Analysis: Analyze historical data to understand past performance, identify potential issues, and plan future operations more effectively.
  6. User Interfaces:
    • Dashboard Views: Provide terminal operators with intuitive dashboard views that offer a comprehensive overview of reefer status, alerts, and key performance indicators.
    • Mobile Access: Allow access to reefer data and management tools via mobile devices, ensuring operators can monitor and manage reefers from anywhere within the terminal.


Integration of a reefer monitoring system in Navis N4 

The integration via the Navis N4 API enables the monitoring system to know when the reefers enter and leave the terminal, as well as the required settings, slot location and work orders to connect or disconnect. It also allows the system to push monitoring data and the connection status to the TOS. 

The benefits are: 

  • Enhanced Efficiency: Streamline reefer operations, reducing manual intervention and improving overall efficiency.
  • Improved Cargo Integrity: Ensure the integrity of temperature-sensitive cargo through continuous monitoring and timely maintenance.
  • Cost Reduction: Minimize operational costs through optimized maintenance schedules and reduced downtime.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Maintain compliance with industry standards and regulations through comprehensive logging and reporting features.

In summary, integrating a reefer monitoring solution like Reefer Runner with the Navis N4 TOS is critical to covering the full container flow in the terminal and elevating the features of an automated reefer monitoring system (read also our success story from Port Hamburg Germany). 


Navis N4: Challenges in Integrating 

One of the challenges is keeping data up to date in real-time on both sides, the TOS and the reefer monitoring system. For an effective process flow, it is essential that the monitoring system receives a connection work order in time, but also that it reports its completion to the TOS without delay.

Usually, two different interfaces are required. Navis N4 offers a reefer monitoring API consisting of web services for pulling and JMS for pushing data.

Automated reefer monitoring solution providers may implement according to Navis N4 specifications to have real-time data exchange. Navis then certifies them by obtaining official validation and becoming Navis Ready partners.


Experiences of integrating Reefer Runner in Navis N4

Deploying the API to Navis N4 requires no further development of Reefer Runner as it is a Navis Ready partner. Only by providing access credentials can the monitoring solution effectively communicate and retrieve the required data to run properly. A small configuration change is required on Navis N4's end to improve reporting times by using JMS to report connection and disconnection work orders and slot location changes in real time.

With Navis N4, Reefer Runner integration is plug-and-play, which simplifies testing. Once the connection is set up, you can immediately test it in live operation. All of our APM Terminals, DP World, and ICTSI customers use our Navis N4 interface, and none of them required any extra development when it comes to Reefer Runner.



What is the Navis N4 Terminal Operating System (TOS)?

Navis N4 is a market-leading Terminal Operating System (TOS) designed to manage and optimize all supply chain operations at cargo ports and terminals. It features a highly scalable architecture and advanced metadata-driven model with configurable business rules. Navis N4 supports multi-facility operational visibility and control, offering real-time monitoring, historical reporting, and seamless integration with other terminal operations, including reefer management.

How does the Navis N4 API facilitate reefer monitoring and management?

The Navis N4 API for reefers provides comprehensive tools to manage and monitor refrigerated containers within a terminal. It enables real-time data collection on temperature, humidity, and other critical parameters and sets up automated alerts and notifications for any deviations. The API supports status tracking, location monitoring, automated maintenance scheduling, and seamless integration with other terminal operations, ensuring efficient handling and the preservation of temperature-sensitive cargo.

What are the benefits of integrating a reefer monitoring system with Navis N4?

Integrating a reefer monitoring system with Navis N4 offers several benefits:

  • Enhanced Efficiency: Streamlines reefer operations by reducing manual intervention and improving overall efficiency.
  • Improved Cargo Integrity: Ensures the integrity of temperature-sensitive cargo through continuous monitoring and timely maintenance.
  • Cost Reduction: Minimizes operational costs through optimized maintenance schedules and reduced downtime.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Maintains compliance with industry standards and regulations through comprehensive logging and reporting features. This integration allows real-time data exchange and automated alerts, helping terminals manage refrigerated containers effectively.



Seamless temperature monitoring is essential for the successful transport of perishable goods using refrigerated containers (reefers). Integrating a monitoring system like Reefer Runner with a Terminal Operations System (TOS) like Navis N4 ensures real-time data collection and automated alerts, preserving cargo integrity and reducing costs. As the reefer market grows, leveraging advanced TOS capabilities becomes increasingly important. For assistance with integrating reefer monitoring into Navis N4, contact us for expert guidance and support.

Remote Reefer Monitoring System Whitepaper

Delve deeper into one of our core topics:  Reefer Monitoring


(1) https://www.psmarketresearch.com/market-analysis/reefer-container-market-report

(2)  https://www.zionmarketresearch.com/report/reefer-container-market



Jordi Asensio, Product Manager

Jordi holds a Telecommunications Engineering degree from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). Throughout his extensive professional career, he has specialized in developing cutting-edge automation solutions leveraging wireless technologies. His journey began with the implementation of GPS&GSM modules for fleet tracking and evolved to encompass Low-power UHF and 5G transceivers for remote monitoring. During his tenure spanning over a decade at Identec Solutions, Jordi spearheaded the successful deployment of numerous automation systems in Container Terminals globally, eventually assuming the role of product manager. He actively contributes to the digital transformation of processes, with a keen emphasis on enhancing user experience and continually striving to optimize operational efficiency.