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Shipping Container Types and Their Common Uses

25.10.2020 - Posted by Updated On 25.10.2020    

It's common knowledge that shipping containers come in different sizes, the most common being 20' and 40' containers; what many people don't think about is that there are several types of shipping containers, each designed for different uses. The history of intermodal shipping is relatively short, but in that short period of time shipping lines have been very effective at designing the most efficient ways to transport all types of goods around the world.

The following paragraphs focus on some of the most common containers and their intended uses. If you're interested in shipping/cargo container dimensions, please refer to this page [].

Standard Dry Container

Standard shipping containers typically come in 20' and 40' lengths. Worldwide, they are the most common containers available and are used for shipping almost anything and everything that you can think of. Typically, goods are boxed, placed on pallets, and loaded into the container. Once in the container they can be easily loaded and unloaded to ships, trains, and trucks.

40ft shipping container 40ft shipping container loaded with cargo
40' shipping container Loaded shipping container

High Cube Container

A high cube container is similar in use and design as a standard dry shipping container. The key difference between a standard dry container and a high cube container is that a high cube container is 9'6" tall; while a standard container is 8'6" tall. In a 40' container this extra height gives the high cube 2,694 cubic feet, 344 cubic feet more than a standard container which has 2350 cubic feet.

Refrigerated Container

To comply with existing manufacturing and intermodal shipping designs, refrigerated containers have the same exterior dimensions as standard dry shipping containers. Refrigerated containers are heavily insulated and have integrated cooling systems to keep goods cool or frozen during transportation.

Most commonly, products transported in refrigerated containers are foods such as fruits and vegetables, and meat and dairy products.

More information on refrigerated shipping containers can be found here [].

Flat Rack Container

Flat rack containers come in 20' and 40' lengths and are capable of carrying 52,900 lbs (24,000 kg) and 74,800 lbs (34,000 kg), respectively. They have collapsible end frames and lashing rings are typically available on the rails, corner posts, and floors. Typically, flat rack containers are used for shipping oversized or heavy items or equipment.

flat rack shipping container Open top shipping container
Flat Rack Shipping Container Open Top Shipping Container

Open Top Container

If something is being shipped that is too large for a standard or high cube container it is typically shipped in an open top container. With the exception of the roof, open top containers are constructed in a similar manner as standard dry containers - corrugated steel walls and wooden floors. The roof of an open top container has the ability to install roof bows that both support a tarp and provide additional structural strength.

Open top containers can be used for all types of dry cargo that need to be packed with a crane or crab and loaded through the door or top.

There are several other shipping containers circulating the world today. Oil and liquid products move in tank containers, specially equipped carrier containers are used for automobile transport and countless types of repurposed custom containers are being used by the military and other government organizations. If you have an interesting story or use for shipping containers that you'd like to share please contact us. Likewise if you need assistance buying a shipping container or help with a container conversion project. Our expert staff are always willing to share their experience and knowledge.

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