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How Shipping Containers are Graded

25.01.2016 - Posted by Updated On 25.01.2016    

Buying a used shipping container is typically a very straight forward process, however it’s important to know that there is no uniform way that shipping containers are graded. Some companies assign a letter grade, such as "A", "B", or "C"; while others use "cargo worthy" or "wind and water tight". This week we’re going to offer a quick tutorial on how a container is graded and how the letter assignment correlates.

First, the Institute of International Container Lessors has a prescribed grading system ranging from cargo worthy to wind and water tight. In terms of international shipping, these are the default grading system for all shipping containers. However, some of the criteria doesn’t really apply if you plan to use the shipping container for residential storage purposes.

  • IICL: IICL containers meet the highest criteria of criteria and are in good physical and cosmetic condition. The IICL sets the repair standards to meet the rigorous demands of overseas shipping.
  • Cargo Worthy: A cargo worthy container meets the criteria for overseas shipping and can be inspected and approved by a certified surveyor. A cargo worthy container must always have a valid CSC plate (convention for safe containers) located on the door stating how long the container is certified for.
  • Wind and Water Tight: This means that, literally, the container is wind and water tight and has not been certified for shipping. There could be some cosmetic damage, but overall this classification is good for commercial or residential storage purposes.
Shipping container CSC plate

If the seller chooses to use a letter denomination for grading their containers, there’s a little more wiggle room in the conditions, and the container may not be required for overseas shipping purposes. It’s important to note that IICL grading puts more emphasis on the overall condition of the container, and less on the cosmetic presentation.

  • A Grade: A container with the top grade assigned to it is generally in cargo worthy condition, but it may not be currently certified. It will be in clean cosmetic condition with no major dents or dings, very little superficial rust, and it should have a valid CSC plate.
  • B Grade: B graded containers may have a few dents scratches, but are still in wind and water tight condition. There could be a medium level of superficial rust and corrosion, but the container will be in overall good condition and well suited for any type of storage purpose.
Cargo Worthy Shipping Container
  • C Grade: C graded containers will have less curb appeal as they probably have some cosmetic damage and medium to heavy levels of rust and corrosion. This classification of container will probably not meet IICL standards for shipping, but could be a good value purchase for storage.

The best way to grade a container is to communicate directly with the seller, and if possible schedule a time to inspect the container or get sample pictures. In many cases containers are purchased unseen, and exact pictures are not always possible due to large volumes of inventory and turnover in the stack. However, there’s little deviation and if purchasing a container directly from the leasing company or shipping line it’s likely to be in cargo worthy condition. If there’s any large damage the container will be priced accordingly. facilitates the sale of shipping containers around the United States, and around the world. Our active sellers can provide shipping containers in standard intermodal lengths, and both standard and high cubes as well. If you have any questions about a specific container listed on the marketplace feel free to contact the seller directly. If you have a general container question you can contact any of our staff through the contact page.

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