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Grading a Shipping or Storage Container’s Condition

09.10.2017 - Posted by Updated On 23.10.2017    

Shipping container condition is important to companies or individuals that need a sea bound, cargo worthy shipping container to move goods, and for those looking to use a shipping container for storage that require the unit to be wind and water tight. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a shipping lines definition of cargo worthy may not be in line with the aesthetic expectations of an individual that needs a shipping container for storage.

The difference in focus between shippers and retail users is primarily how the container looks. A company or individual that needs a cargo worthy shipping container isn’t concerned with appearance, only structural integrity, which also includes the ribs on the bottom side of the container. An individual that needs a shipping container for storage typically wants a wind and water tight unit that looks good.

From the retail, or end user perspective, there are a few starting points and terms that should be known when purchasing a shipping container. First, it’s important to know the general terms used when talking about the condition of a shipping container, and the second is knowing the basics of what to look for, and where to look for it.

General overview of conditions

Shipping container condition grading can vary from shipping line to shipping line, and container lessor to lessor. Some use technical jargon that’s worded for shipping lines and “shipper owned containers”, while others use very general definitions that can be very broad in scope.

  • One trip/New Shipping Container: This is a shipping container that has only made one loaded trip across the ocean. Since most containers are manufactured in China, where many containerized goods are made, it’s easier to fill them once and sell them upon arrival. This type of container should have no rust, and no dents or dings. The paint should be clean and not faded.
  • Cargo Worthy Shipping Container: This type of container will be better than wind and water tight and be able to meet the rigorous requirements for overseas shipping. It will be completely square, have good working doors, the flooring will be free of any defect (no delamination or gouging), and the ribs under the floor will be straight. It’s important to note that a cargo worthy container may have some surface rust, but it stop there. No rust will go through the sides of the container.
  • Wind and Watertight: Wind and water tight containers may be cargo worthy, but have an expired inspection. For storage purposes, this is a perfectly good unit. There may be some surface rust, but in general the doors will work smoothly and the container will be square and strong.
  • As is (ASIS) Shipping Container: Many times companies will sell their containers on an ASIS basis. The container may be wind and water tight, but the line or lessor doesn’t want to make any representations on the container or have it inspected to certify its condition. If you have specific requirements regarding the container and it’s being sold ASIS, it’s best to inspect the container yourself to verify that it will qualify for your requirements.

Things to Look For

If you need to inspect a shipping container on your own, as a novice it may seem challenging to know where to begin; after all it’s just a large steel box that you’re buying and there is no technology involved, so it should be pretty straight forward. In the past, we’ve published several articles on this subject, and rather than go into detail rehashing them here are a few links:

Used shipping container grading/conditions
How Shipping Containers are Graded
Cargo Worthy vs. Wind and Water Tight Shipping Containers

To provide a summary of the articles above, there are three key places to look at when inspecting a shipping container. Aside from doing a walk around to look for any signs of corrosion that goes deeper than the surface, and dents or dings that will cause problems in the immediate future; start by checking the three following areas:

  • Close the Doors: Go inside of the container and close the doors. There should be no sunlight shining through the container. If you see little spots of light anywhere it could be a sign of rust or a broken seam that means the container isn’t wind and water tight. It may be easily repaired, but it should still be looked at closer.
  • Open the Doors: Check around the doors to make sure the gaskets and seals are still in fair condition. It can only be expected that there will be some surface rust on the bottom rail around the doors, but the doors should still open and close without too much effort. Keep in mind that they may not have been used in a few months, so some container doors will require a little encouragement to get them moving the first few times.
  • Check the Rails: From the inside of the container, stand in the front (the side away from the doors) and look down the top and bottom rail. If the container is square the top and bottom rails will be straight. This means that the container isn’t “racked” and a good sign that it’s going to be wind and water tight.

These are just a few tips on getting started when purchasing a new or used shipping container. If you have any further questions you are welcome to contact either the organization selling the container through the ContainerAuction.com marketplace, or you may contact the staff at ContainerAuction.com directly.



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