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Intermodal Asia 2017 Recap: Changes in Shipping Container Paint

27.03.2017 - Posted by Updated On 27.03.2017    

At Intermodal Asia 2017 we didn’t watch paint dry, but we did have extensive discussions about watching paint dry. One of the biggest panel discussions was that of the pending changes to the paint used in and on shipping containers. Regulations have changed in China, and the traditional solvent based paints used on shipping containers is being replaced by a water borne paint.

Historically, the paint used on shipping containers has been a solvent based paint, however as of April 1 2017 all shipping containers will be painted with waterborne paint. Since the Chinese New Year break many of the factories have closed production and spent tens of millions of dollars to retool their factories for this new standard and the changes are starting to come through now.

What’s the Difference between Solvent Based Paint and Water Borne Paint?

To the end user, there’s essentially no visible difference between solvent based paint and water borne paint. In 10-15 years we may be able to see a difference in the life span of the paint, however the paint manufacturers have assured us that there is no difference in the long term quality of the paint.

The main difference between the two types of paint is how they dry. Many of the ingredients in the paint are the same, but waterborne paint contains a few less chemicals that can be harmful if inhaled on a continual basis. Both paints harden as the solvents or water aspects evaporate, but water borne paints take slightly longer to cure and require a greater amount of ventilation. Along with the additional ventilation needed, water borne paints require a minimum temperature of 10 degrees Celsius. If the paint ever falls below this temperature it is compromised and can no longer be used for its intended purpose. This makes painting a container in Northern China a little more sensitive than painting a shipping container in Southern China.

What Does This Mean to Me, the End User?

While people who purchase used shipping containers won’t be impacted by this for another 15 years, those who purchase new shipping containers will see an increase in price of around $250/unit. This $250 reflects the millions of dollars spent in factory changes and the new equipment and process changes that have occurred in China. Production lines have been extended and slowed down to allow for the additional drying time, and this has forced factories to raise the prices. In the end, the paint on new containers will be a more environmentally friendly paint, and be less dangerous for the workers to apply in high volumes. is an online marketplace for new and used shipping containers in North America and around the world. Older shipping containers sold through the platform will contain solvent based paints, while all new production post April 2017 will be painted with water borne paint. If you have any questions about purchasing a specific container please contact the seller directly through the listing page, while if you have a general container question or don’t know where to get started we invite you to contact the a staff directly.

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