Most Common Types of Shipping Containers

Commercial planes are the primary mode of travel for people, but when it comes to moving cargo, shipping container transport services reign supreme. Over 60% of the global trade is transported in shipping containers, making it the single most essential component of international supply chains. It is also an essential source of income, providing employment for many developing countries.

The transport of shipping containers remains by far the most cost-efficient way to move goods by bulk, transporting everything from raw materials to finished products. To do this, companies use an assortment of shipping container types to accommodate all shapes and sizes. Here are some commonly used types of shipping containers, most you may have seen loaded on a cargo ship, a freight train, or a truck. 


  • Dry Storage Containers


This is the most commonly used type of shipping container. It is fully enclosed with a rigid roof, floor, and sidewalls, protecting its contents from the weather and the elements. It comes in sizes of 10ft, 20ft, and 40ft, all standardised by ISO. Aside from transporting dry goods, liner bags, or flexitanks, it can also carry certain types of bulk liquid cargo.


  • Flat Rack Containers


In this type of container, both sidewalls are collapsible, turning the container into a flat rack when folded. Use this to transport oversized cargo, such as heavy machinery and construction materials.


  • Open-Top Containers


This type of container has a removable and convertible roof. It is perfect for transporting over-height materials that could not fit through the door. The cargo can be supported by lashing rings installed in the container’s corner posts and side rails.


  • Double-Enders or Tunnel Containers


Double-enders have double doors on both ends. When you open both doors, the container looks like a tunnel. The openings on both ends help facilitate the loading and unloading of its contents. 


  • Open Side Containers


In addition to the traditional door on one end, one side of this type of container can be swung open. It offers wider access for faster loading and unloading of goods. 


  • Refrigerated ISO Containers


This type of container is built with a temperature regulation system powered by an external source. It is used to transport perishable goods such as fish, meats, fruits, and vegetables.


  • Tank Containers


Also known as tankers, this type of container is widely used in the shipping container transport industry to move liquid materials. It is made of strong, anti-corrosive steel. When transporting liquid, it must be no less than 80% full to prevent hydraulic surging and no more than 95% full to allow room for thermal expansion.


  • Half-Height Containers


This type of container is used to transport heavy and dense cargo, such as coal and stones. As the name implies, it is only half the height of a regular container. This configuration is essential in maintaining a low centre of gravity so the cargo does not tip over during transit.


  • Exchangeable Containers


This type of container does not have upper corner fittings and is not strong enough to be stacked. So it is used for road and rail transport only. It is commonly used in Europe, transporting a wide range of goods. 

Shipping container transport services have come a long way since the intermodal system was first standardised in the 1950s. It continues to grow, reaching an estimated value of $12 trillion in 2017, and is showing no signs of slowing down. 


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