How Many Types of Shipping Containers Are There?

About 90% of the entire world’s cargo is moved by ships. It’s no wonder there are many different types of shipping containers out there to accommodate these goods from point A to point B. Each type of shipping container serves a different purpose, and today we’re going to take a look at a few of the most common types available on the market today. 

Every shipping container is designed to protect the contents inside of it to make sure that they make their long journey. The specifications of each shipping crate differ depending on what is inside of it. They can vary in dimension, structure, materials, construction and more. 

A History of Shipping Containers

The very first modern shipping container was made in 1955 by Malcolm Mclean and Keith Tantlinger, it was 8ft tall, 8ft wide and 10ft long. Like today’s designs, it uses a twist lock mechanism on each corner for secure attachment. The patents for the design were released to the industry, giving rise to the beginning of the international standardization of shipping containers. 

The invention of the standardized shipping container helped to significantly reduce transportation costs and also caused a surge in international trade. This is because it made the process of shipping goods more streamlined by eliminating manual sorting and reducing reliance on warehousing. In addition to that, congestion was reduced at the ports, shipping times were also shortened and the effects of theft and damage were also lessened.

Types of Shipping Containers

General Purpose Containers

General purpose containers, also known as “dry containers”, are one of the most common types of shipping containers. These are fully enclosed containers that protect cargo from the elements and are water and weatherproof. They usually feature a rigid roof, side walls and floor. They are used for shipping dry materials and goods, and can be either 20ft, 40ft or 10ft. These load most types of common cargo, and they are able to have adaptations like liner bags or flexi-tanks for shipping liquid bulk cargo or dry bulk cargo. 

Flat Rack Container

These types of shipping containers have collapsible sides which are folded in order to create a flat rack. They are pretty much a simple storage solution that have end walls that are secure enough to allow cargo to be secured to it. They are useful for shipping oversized goods like heavy machinery, big reels and construction materials. 

High Cube Containers

These high cube shipping containers look very similar to general purpose containers, but they are taller by approximately one foot. These come in sizes 4oft and in some cases 45ft and they are usually used in cases where slightly bigger volume capacities are required. They can also feature a recess in the floor to centre the container on its gooseneck chassis, this adds to its height and allows it to lie lower and be constructed taller.

Open Side Containers

These are, again, similar to general purpose containers, with the difference being that the doors can open completely on the side. This allows wider room for loading and unloading materials. They provide much wider room for extra large items which won’t fit through regular doors. 

Open Top Containers

Open top containers have a convertible top which can be completely removed to accommodate materials that are over-height. Cargo such as tall machinery that cannot be easily loaded through the door can be moved into the shipping container with a crane or rolling bridge. These containers have lashing rings on the upper and lower side rails and corner posts that are used to secure cargo.

Double Door Containers

Double door containers, also known as tunnel containers, are incredibly useful for quickly loading and unloading goods. This is because they have doors on both ends of the container. They can make wider room for steel and iron. 

ISO Reefer Containers

Refrigerated containers are designed to keep the temperature inside them regulated at a low temperature. These are used for the shipping of temperature sensitive and perishable cargo like meats, fruits and vegetables over longer distances. These containers rely on external power sources to keep them cool. Reefers are typically made out of weathering steel called “Cor-ten” steel. 

Thermal or Insulated Containers

Similarly to the ISO reefer containers, thermal/insulated containers are temperature controlled to allow them to stay at a higher temperature. They are made from heat-resistant materials that can withstand these temperatures and maintain a long-lasting life despite the exposure. They use a mechanical compressor that cools or heats the air inside the container. These are suitable for the use of transporting pharmaceuticals, certain foods, organs, blood, or biological materials and chemicals. 

Half Height Containers

These are exactly what they sound like. They are mostly made of steel and are half the height of a general purpose shipping container. These are typically used for materials like stone, coal and other dense materials which need easier loading and unloading. They have a low centre of gravity so they are able to handle heavy loads easily while at the same time being robust enough to withstand rougher environments. They are perfect for use within the mining sector and other industrial situations. 

Tank Containers

Tank containers are also known as tankers and are made out of steel and other anti-corrosive materials to transport and protect liquid materials. These tank containers need to be 80% filled as a requirement to prevent the dangerous surging of liquids during transit. At the same time, it must not be over 95% full as that would not allow for enough room for thermal expansion of the liquid. 

These are some of the most common shipping containers out there today. 

Author Bio

Karthik Talwar is a content writer for BreezeMaxWeb that helps businesses showcase their brand through enticing copy. When he is not working, he enjoys exploring new places and trying new foods.