UNIT45 sees opportunities in times of crisis

UNIT45 sees opportunities in times of crisis

02 October 2020

Where a lot of companies are struggling due to Covid-19 consequences UNIT45 is growing. The company specializes in the development of 45ft containers and is actually expanding and is expecting to stay European marketleader. The biggest growth remains in conditioned transportation on the New Silk Way.

At the office at Villapark Rotterdam, were UNIT45 will remain till end of this year, Jan Koolen M.D. is explaining enthusiastic the current development the company is undergoing. ‘For us the corona crisis is not all that bad. We are actually doing more business than last year’,  Koolen explains. Road transportation is suffering the most and is getting the biggest blows at the moment says the M.D. ‘We saw a decrease of 25 to 30 percent in the beginning when strong border-controls were implemented. Meanwhile, intermodal transport was increasing. Rail transport en shortsea keep on going steady and that is what we do best. This is not  a development lately but growth of intermodal transport has been going on for a while now.’

New Silk Way

Our growth is mainly conditioned transportation. 45ft reefers maintaining a certain temperature. Our diesel electric reefer with 250ltr diesel tank is mostly used. With this container it is possible to keep a load 6 to 8 days at a certain temperature without refueling.

For the long haul UNIT45 has recently made a further development with this reefer. ‘We have developed a similar diesel electric reefer, only with an 800 liter tank. This unit can remain 16 to 24 days self-supporting, so you do not have to refuel during the travel at all. ’ This is extremely important because in some countries the diesel just does not have the correct quality. Koolen: ‘Refueling in Kazachstan for example can be a challenge, you simply risk the wrong diesel in the tank. Often the diesel is thinned with water. When this freezes the engine will stall.’

New Silk Way Logistics

One of the well-known transporters that uses this reefer with 800 liter tank is is New Silk Way Logistics, a cooperation between KLG en H. Essers, two logistic companies from Venlo and Genk. The transporter has a broad experience with conditioned transport to China and is further expanding this knowledge. Koolen: ‘The company encountered engine failure of the reefers. With products that need to be transported at a constant temperature this is undoable. Due to this unique warming- cooling system, New Silk Way Logistics no longer has these problems.’

The diversity of products that need to be transported in a conditioned state is very large.  ‘A company like HP. They want to transport laptops by rail from China, but faced the problem that during the transport on the Silk Way the temperature can sometimes drop up to -45 degrees in the middle of the night.  At such a low temperature the warranty simply expires, because a laptop can handle only a temperature up to -20 degrees . In the case of HP we are warming this reefer so that the temperature in the reefer does not drop lower than -20 degrees’, Koolen explains.


UNIT45 is always responding to the demand of the market. Even different demands than usual. ‘We are developing a self-cleaning toiletcontainer and have made a hotelcontainer for the event market. In cooperation with Lamboo Mobile Medical, we recently we introduce a coronacontainer. These are all niches, but absolutely opportunities we do not want to miss’, says Koolen.

And it does not end there. To provide a place to develop vaccins for the virus, UNIT45 has made super-freezers, delivered from China. ‘Containers used in Japan to store tuna up to -60 degrees are extremely suited for saving the corona vaccin. This vaccin needs to be stored at an extremely low temperature.


Since founded in 2003, UNIT45 started innovating a long time ago. In 1996 the EU-guideline 96/53/EC came into effect. This guideline mentioned exactly to what specification the 45ft container needed to meet. This new guideline stated that the 45ft of that time did not meet the requirements to fit on a trailer or ship.

With its chamferred corner castings the containers of UNIT45 can be fully loaded and used for all modalities. Throughout the world, Europe excluding, the use of 45ft container is quite unique. The common standard container is still the 20ft and 40ft.


The power of UNIT45 is not only her innovation skills but also its flexibility, says Koolen. ‘We employ only 9 people. Production and repair are done at a distance, mostly in China. If you include all people we have up to a hundred people working for UNIT45. In these good times we are able to hire even more. However during the transport crisis in 2008/2009, we are not obliged to hire this extra help. Therefor we are not effected by crisis as many companies are.’

The flexibility also results in giving UNIT45 the possibility to accept all types of orders. ‘When a company has a new idea we are always prepared to join in. Our developers are ready to work with our clients’, concludes Koolen.