Fake refrigerants 'significant threat to global shipping'

Paul Snell is managing editor at Supply Management
21 October 2015

Counterfeit refrigerants used to keep shipping containers cool present a significant safety risk to the worldwide maritime sector.

That’s the view of Wilhelmsen Ships Services, which has called for a global ban on the use of disposable coolant cylinders, frequently used by fakers as they are cheap and untraceable.

Counterfeiters often use an unstable cocktail of gases, rather than the correct chemical composition, which are both inefficient damaging the containers, and volatile.

Svenn Jacobsen, technical product manager, refrigeration at Wilhlemsen, said: “If the legitimate refrigerant suppliers no longer provided refrigerants in disposable cylinders, the counterfeiters would be out of business. We don’t support their use and we believe a worldwide ban is far overdue.”

There are an estimated 2,500 refrigerated containers, known as “reefers”, affected by contaminated refrigerants, with the figure likely to be higher.

The company advised only to use traceable, re-usable cylinders supplied by firms approved by a licensed manufacturer.

Jon Black, global head of chemicals and refrigerants at Linde Gases, said: “If a new distributor appears on the market, we recommend operators conduct a thorough audit before making a purchase.”

In 2011, three port workers – in Vietnam, China and Brazil – were killed by containers which exploded due to counterfeit refrigerants.

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