Construction and Working of Ships Refrigeration plant

The refrigeration plants on merchant vessels play a vital part in carrying refrigerated cargo and provisions for the crew on board. In reefer ships, the temperature of the perishable or temperature sensitive cargo such as food, chemical, or liquefied gas, is controlled by the refrigeration plant of the ship. The same plant or a smaller unit can be used for maintaining the temperature of different provision rooms carrying food stuffs for crew members.

The main purpose of ship’s refrigeration plant is to avoid any damage to the cargo or perishable material so that the cargo in transported in good and healthy condition. Refrigeration prevents growth of micro-organisms, oxidation, fermentation and drying out of cargo etc.

Main Components of Refrigeration plants

Any refrigeration unit works with different components inline to each other in series. The main components are:

1. Compressor: Reciprocating single or two stage compressor is commonly used for compressing and supplying the refrigerant to the system.

2. Condenser: Shell and tube type condenser is used to cool down the refrigerant in the system.

3. Receiver: The cooled refrigerant is supplied to the receiver, which is also used to drain out the refrigerant from the system for maintenance purpose.

4. Drier: The drier connected in the system consists of silica gel to remove any moisture from the refrigerant

5. Solenoids: Different solenoid valves are used to control the flow of refrigerant into the hold or room. Master solenoid is provided in the main line and other solenoid is present in all individual cargo hold or rooms.

6. Expansion valve: An Expansion valve regulates the refrigerants to maintain the correct hold or room temperature.

7. Evaporator unit: The evaporator unit act as a heat exchanger to cool down the hold or room area by transferring heat to the refrigerant.

8. Control unit: The control unit consist of different safety and operating circuits for safe operation of the refer plant.

Working of Ship’s Refrigeration Plant

The compressor acting as a circulation pump for refrigerant has two safety cut-outs- Low pressure (LP) and High Pressure (HP) cut outs. When the pressure on the suction side drops below the set valve, the control unit stops the compressor and when the pressure on the discharge side shoots up, the compressor trips.

LP or low pressure cut out is controlled automatically i.e. when the suction pressure drops, the compressor stops and when the suction pressure rises again, the control system starts the compressor. HP or high pressure cut out is provided with manually re-set

The hot compressed liquid is passed to a receiver through a condenser to cool it down. The receiver can be used to collect the refrigerant when any major repair work has to be performed.

The master solenoid is fitted after the receiver, which is controlled by the control unit. In case of sudden stoppage of compressor, the master solenoid also closes, avoiding the flooding of evaporator with refrigerant liquid.

The room or hold solenoid and thermostatic valve regulate the flow of the refrigerant in to the room to maintain the temperature of the room. For this, the expansion valve is controlled by a diaphragm movement due to the pressure variation which is operated by the bulb sensor filled with expandable fluid fitted at the evaporator outlet.

The thermostatic expansion valve supplies the correct amount of refrigerants to evaporators where the refrigerants takes up the heat from the room and boils off into vapours resulting in temperature drop for that room.

This is how temperature is maintained in the refrigeration plant of the ship.


You might also like to read-Guidelines on Quality of Refrigerant Used on Ships


Marine Aux Machinery by H.D.McGeorge

Image Credits:




Get Free News Updates Daily

Join 40000+ maritime professionals who receive daily newsletters, offers and more..

Digital Maritime Resources For The Smart Mariner

Take me to the eBook Store


  1. jgheisari says

    If you were to walk past a refer plant on board and you saw bubbles in the sight glass, what problem would you suspect to be the problem and how could this be rectified?

    If anyone could answer this question I would be very greatful?

  2. Anish says

    Hi jghesari-

    It indicates that their is air entrapment inside the line or the line itself is undercharged.
    Collect all the refrigerant in the condensor and cool it down for some time. Air being lighter, it will come up and vent the air carefully in an empty bottle.

  3. anoop says

    what are the reasons that will produce high discharge pressure of a refrigeration compressor which will lead to HP cut out.?

  4. salvador says

    because if the compressors stops. the cycle also stops?? please answer…i’ really bothered

  5. Anish says

    Yes! if the compressor stops, the cycle will also stop. first the reason for stopping of the compressor has to be rectified before starting up again.

  6. padmanaathan says

    can u please explain the difference between function of solenoid valve & thermostatic expansion valve, both sounds like having the same function ?

  7. says

    Greetings Mr.Anish and Mohit team in marine insight,

    Your job is really good and appreciated.

    When I look into the HVAC side, as I am looking more practical issue on board ship with Infrared thermography and Airborne ultra sound tools, one important topic for practical applications is to be mentioned. about Degree of super heat and Sub cooling. how to measure and what will be the problems if not maintained correctly. How the compressor break downs occurs etc.,

    Kind regards

  8. says

    @ Amit: I am assuming you want to know the selection procedure of the expansion valve. It will depend on the sepcifications of the refrigeration plant. Following points to be considered-
    – Pressure drop accross the valves
    – Liquid temperature of the refrigerant entering the valve
    – System capacity requirements


  9. Russell says

    “The hot compressed liquid is passed to a receiver through a condenser to cool it down.”

    Hot compressed gas I believe?

    The BASICS I seem to recall from school are:

    -Compressor compresses the gas – high pressure / high temperature gas
    -Condenser cools the high press/high temp gas to high press/cool temp liquid
    -Expansion v/v converts high pressure/cool temperature liquid to low pressure/low temperature liquid
    -Evaporator then delivers heat to the low temp/low pressure liquid, thus evaporating it to a low pressure/ (~intermediate/higher) temperature gas
    Then the compressor compresses the gas again to continue the cycle.

    We don’t want liquid trying to be compressed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Marine Insight Forums | Join the Community

Ask your queries and get answered by experts. Share your knowledge and experience with other maritime professionals. Grow your network!!