Shipping containers can be damaged in any number of ways. Damage most likely happens during transit on a vessel, or handling at the port or depot. If you're buying a new shipping container it's not likely to be damaged, and it will be easier to spot if it is. However, if you're buying a used container the damage may be concealed due to faded paint or natural wear and tear that's occurred over the life of the container. Any type of damage on a container can cause rust and corrosion to spread faster, and the container can lose some of it's security.
Damage that occurs while the container is in transit may be a little harder to notice because it's likely to be structural in nature. On a vessel 20' containers are usually stacked on the bottom, and 40' containers are placed on the top before they are tied down. Logically, this makes it easier to secure the containers and safer during movement. However, if the containers aren't secured properly and the vessel finds itself in rough seas, the containers can rock up and down and the 20' containers on the bottom allow the 40's on top to flex and bend. Over time this will cause the 40' containers to bend and fall out of square. Even if the container is just a little out of square it can impact how secure it is and how smoothly the doors open and close.
To check for this type of damage it's best to stretch a piece of string the length of the container and make sure that it's an equal distance the entire length of the container.
Container damage that occurs from handling equipment is likely to be bends, dents, or punctures. If a container falls off a stack it doesn't need to fall far to cause significant damage to the container. Likewise if an inexperienced to distracted fork lift operator accidentally runs a forklift into the side of a container and punctures the steel. While it may sound worse, a puncture is easier to repair than structural damage to the frame.
To detect damage from being dropped, use the string trick mentioned in the previous paragraph. Punctures are easier to spot, even if the damage has been repaired. A decent patch over a puncture and the container will be just as secure as it originally was.
New and used containers rarely get damaged due to the skill of the equipment operators and how secure they are lashed down during transit, however when they are damaged it can expedite rust, corrosion, and the container can ultimately lose its ability to protect the goods inside from wind and water. If you plan to purchase a new shipping container there's little chance that the container will be damaged at all, and if it is the company selling the container will typically highlight the damaged area. If you're purchasing a used shipping container the seller should point out any significant damage that causes the container not to be wind and water tight, but you can always expect a few scratches and dents due to the natural life of the container.
ContainerAuction.com is a marketplace for buying and selling shipping containers of all sizes, in many locations around the world. If you're interested in buying a shipping container we invite you to search the listings in your area, or complete the container request for and one of our registered sellers will contact you to help you find the best container at the best possible price.