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Shipping Conatainers

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 2 months ago

ISO container dimensions and payloads


There are five common standard lengths, 20-ft (6.1 m), 40-ft (12.2 m), 45-ft (13.7 m), 48-ft (14.6 m), and 53-ft (16.2 m). United States domestic standard containers are generally 48-ft and 53-ft (rail and truck). Container capacity is measured in twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU, or sometimes teu). An equivalent unit is a measure of containerized cargo capacity equal to one standard 20 ft (length) × 8 ft (width) × 9 ft (height) container. In metric units this is 6.10 m (length) × 2.44 m (width) × 2.59 m (height), or approximately 38.5 m³. These sell at about US$2,500 in China, the biggest manufacturer.[1]

Most containers today are of the 40-ft (12.2 m) variety and are known as 40-foot containers. This is equivalent to 2 TEU. 45-foot (13.7 m) containers are also designated 2 TEU. Two TEU are equivalent to one forty-foot equivalent unit (FEU). High cube containers have a height of 9 ft 6 in (2.9 m), while half-height containers, used for heavy loads, have a height of 4 ft 3 in (1.3 m). When converting containers to TEUs, the height of the containers typically is not considered.

The use of Imperial measurements (also still used in UK) to describe container size (TEU, FEU) despite the fact that much of the world uses the metric system reflects the fact that US shipping companies played a major part in the development of containers. The overwhelming need to have a standard size for containers, in order that they fit all ships, cranes, and trucks, and the length of time that the current container sizes have been in use, makes changing to an even metric size impractical.

The maximum gross mass for a 20-ft dry cargo container is 32,500 kg, and for a 40-ft (including the 2.87 m (9 ft 6 in) high cube container), it is 32,500 kg. Allowing for the tare mass of the container, the maximum payload mass is there reduced to approximately 21,600 kg for 20-ft, and 26,500 kg for 40-ft containers.[2]


Standard containers


The 20 foot container is the most common container worldwide, but the 40 foot container is increasingly replacing it, particularly since costs tend to be per container and not per foot. The longer container types are also becoming more common, and are especially common in North America. Shorter containers, e.g. 10 foot containers, also exist, but are rarely used.

The following table shows the weights and dimensions of the three most common types of containers worldwide. The weights and dimensions quoted below are averages. Different manufacture series of the same type of container may slightly vary in actual size and weight.



  20′ container 40′ container 45′ high-cube container
imperial metric imperial metric imperial metric


length 19' 10½" 6.058 m 40′ 0″ 12.192 m 45′ 0″ 13.716 m
width 8′ 0″ 2.438 m 8′ 0″ 2.438 m 8′ 0″ 2.438 m
height 8′ 6″ 2.591 m 8′ 6″ 2.591 m 9′ 6″ 2.896 m


length 18′ 10 516 5.758 m 39′ 5 4564 12.032 m 44′ 4″ 13.556 m
width 7′ 8 1932 2.352 m 7′ 8 1932 2.352 m 7′ 8 1932 2.352 m
height 7′ 9 5764 2.385 m 7′ 9 5764 2.385 m 8′ 9 1516 2.698 m
door aperture width 7′ 8 ⅛″ 2.343 m 7′ 8 ⅛″ 2.343 m 7′ 8 ⅛″ 2.343 m
height 7′ 5 ¾″ 2.280 m 7′ 5 ¾″ 2.280 m 8′ 5 4964 2.585 m
volume 1,169 ft³ 33.1 m³ 2,385 ft³ 67.5 m³ 3,040 ft³ 86.1 m³

gross mass

71,600 lb 32,500 kg 67,200 lb 30,480 kg 67,200 lb 30,480 kg
empty weight 5,140 lb 2,330 kg 8,820 lb 4,000 kg 10,580 lb 4,800 kg
net load 47,770 lb 21,670 kg 58,380 lb 26,480 kg 56,620 lb 25,680 kg




Loss at sea


Containers occasionally fall from the ships that carry them, something that occurs an estimated 2,000 to 10,000 times each year[5]. For instance, on November 30, 2006, a container washed ashore on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, along with thousands of bags of its cargo of tortilla chips. Containers lost at sea do not necessarily sink, but seldom float very high out of the water, making them a shipping hazard that is difficult to detect. Freight from lost containers has provided oceanographers with unexpected opportunities to track global ocean currents, notably a cargo of Friendly Floatees.




Each container is allocated a reporting mark (ownership code) up to four characters long ending in the letter U, followed by a number up to 9 digits long.


ISO container types


Various container types are available for different needs:[6]

  • General purpose dry van for boxes, cartons, cases, sacks, bales, pallets, drums in standard, high or half height
  • High cube palletwide containers for europallet compatibility
  • Temperature controlled from −25 °C to +25 °C reefer
  • Open top bulktainers for bulk minerals, heavy machinery
  • Open side for loading oversize pallet
  • Flushfolding flat-rack containers for heavy and bulky semi-finished goods, out of gauge cargo
  • Platform or bolster for barrels and drums, crates, cable drums, out of gauge cargo, machinery, and processed timber
  • Ventilated containers for organic products requiring ventilation
  • Tank containers for bulk liquids and dangerous goods
  • Rolling floor for difficult to handle cargo
  • Gas bottle
  • Generator
  • Collapsible ISO
  • Swapbody





Standard containers are also known as general purpose containers. They are closed containers, i.e. they are closed on all sides. A distinction may be drawn between the following types of standard container:

Standard containers with doors at one or both end(s)
Standard containers with doors at one or both end(s) and doors over the entire length of one or both sides
Standard containers with doors at one or both end(s) and doors on one or both sides

In addition, the various types of standard container also differ in dimensions and weight, resulting in a wide range of standard containers.


Standard containers are mainly used as 20' and 40' containers. Containers with smaller dimensions are very seldom used. Indeed, the trend is towards even longer dimensions, e.g. 45'. The principal components of a standard container are shown in following diagram of a 20' plywood container:



Figure 1: Components of a 20' plywood container

1 - Corner casting Eckbeschlag
2 - Forklift pocket Gabelstaplertasche
3 - Bottom cross member Bodenquerträger
4 - Floor Boden
5 - Bottom side rail Bodenlängsträger
6 - Corner post Ecksäule
7 - Top side rail Dachlängsträger
8 - Front top end rail Dachquerträger
9 - Front end wall Stirnwand
10 - Roof bows Dachspriegel
11 - Roof panel Dach
12 - Door header Türobergurt
13 - Hinge Scharnier
14 - Door locking bar Türverschlussstange
15 - Cam Nocke
16 - Cam keeper Nockenhalterung
17 - Door gasket Türdichtung
18 - Door sill Türuntergurt




Frame and bottom cross members are made of steel profiles, while three different materials are used for the walls:


1. Steel sheet, corrugated



low material costs
easy to repair
high tare weight
susceptible to corrosion
difficult to clean owing to corrugated walls


2. Aluminum sheet in conjunction with stiffening profiles




low tare weight
high material costs
easily deformed, very quickly dented


3. Plywood with glass fiber-reinforced plastic coating (plywood + GRP)




easy to clean owing to smooth surfaces
easy to repair
strong and resilient, does not dent
moderate material costs
moderate tare weight


The cost advantages have led to the predominant use of steel for container walls.


The floor is generally made of wood, usually planking or plywood. Although wood is relatively expensive, it has substantial advantages over other materials: it is strong and resilient, does not dent, may be easily replaced during repairs and, when appropriately finished, has an adequate coefficient of friction, which is important for cargo securing.


Standard containers may additionally be equipped with certain optional extras:

Forklift pockets: these allow handling of empty containers with forklift trucks. Packed containers must not be picked up in this way unless specifically permitted. Forklift pockets are installed only in 20' containers and are arranged parallel to the center of the container in the bottom side rails. 40' containers do not have forklift pockets, since the pockets are relatively close together and such large containers would be difficult to balance. In addition, the forklift truck travel paths are often not wide enough.
Gooseneck tunnel: Many 40' containers have a recess in the floor at the front end which serves to center the containers on so-called gooseneck chassis. These recesses allow the containers to lie lower and therefore to be of taller construction.




Grappler pockets: In general, containers are handled by top spreaders using the corner fittings or corner castings. However, some containers have grappler pockets for handling by means of grapplers.



Special fittings are available for transporting special cargoes:

Clothes rails for hanging garments: Special lashing rings attached to the top side rail serve to accommodate clothes rails on which textiles may be transported hanging on clothes-hangers. These are often used in the East Asia import trade. Additional lashing rings are installed on the bottom side rail and the corner posts.
Inlet (bulk bag or liquid bulk bag): Plastic liners may be suspended in standard containers for transporting bulk cargo or nonhazardous liquids.


The wooden components of most containers are impregnated against insect infestation, since, when lumber is used, it may, under certain circumstances, be necessary to comply with the quarantine regulations of the country of destination and a phytosanitary certificate may have to be enclosed with the shipping documents. Information may be obtained from the phytosanitary authorities of the countries concerned.















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