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How to Inspect a Shipping Container

17.03.2013 - Posted by Updated On 17.03.2013    

Inspecting a shipping container before you buy it is a common request, and with almost all containers there is a standard list of things that you should look for as you inspect the unit.  While it’s not required that you inspect the container before you purchase it, in the case of a used container it’s a good idea – especially if you have a certain list of requirements, or haven’t been given recent pictures of the unit.  If you’re purchasing a new container, you may not need to inspect it as there’s no technology or other features involved, and the condition of the container very rarely an issue.  However, if you’re purchasing a used container and you have specific needs (color, hinges and other mechanicals, flooring, etc), it may benefit you to inspect the unit.  In many cases the seller, possibly a shipping line or container leasing company, has several containers at the depot and you can pick the one that best meets your needs.

What to look for when inspecting a shipping container:

Corners and Seams:  Walk around the outside of the container and check the corners, edges, and seams.  Make sure that you look at the bottom and top of the unit, where condensation and water can collect.  Then do the same on the inside.  Be on the lookout for any types of rust, corrosion, or excessive condensation build up.  Surface rust typically amounts to nothing and can be fixed with a cheap coat of paint, but more serious rust is possible in containers older than 12-15 years.

Paint/Rust:  Check the interior and exterior of the container for paint chips, flaking, or other types of damage.  Weaknesses in the paint may be a sign of rust or corrosion hidden underneath the paint.  If permitted, carry a steel bristled brush to try and knock off
shipping container inspection

any suspect areas to assess how serious the spot might be.  A little rust should be expected and since the container is probably made of COR-TEN steel it’s perfectly natural.

Mechanical Parts:  The mechanical parts of a container are around the doors.  The hinges and locking gear make up a majority of the moving parts.  Make sure that the doors swing freely enough for your liking, and the locking gear opens and closes easily enough for your intended use.  If they parts don’t move as freely as expected, would lubricant solve the issue?

Flooring:  Check the floor for any signs of rotting or excessive damage and gouges.  Some wear and tear must be expected, after all the container has probably been around the world a couple of times.  If there are areas of rot or damage you may need to invest in having it repaired.

Lockbox:  Many older containers aren’t equipped with a lock box, while new or one trip shipping containers are.  If the container will be in an unsecured area, such as an oil field or construction site, you may want a lock box.  If one isn’t installed, you can either ask the depot to install one for you (and the costs associated), or you can purchase a bolt on lock box.

Overall, a used shipping container that’s between 10-15 years old should be expected to be starting to show its age.  That being said, it doesn’t mean it’s not being sold at a great price and will work well as a storage unit or other type of modified container shelter.  Having what you plan to use the container for in mind, and knowing what’s important and not, will help you make the best decision when making the purchase.



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