Shipping Container Dimensions

Shipping containers have become so popular because they’re standardized. They come in standard shape, standard casting, and construction. This has, therefore simplified intermodal logistics. But, as there are many variations, determining the right size can be somehow confusing. Checking their dimensions before purchasing is very important. Read this guide to understand how these containers measure up.

First a Brief Introduction to Shipping Containers

Before we talk about their dimensions, it’s wise that we begin our discussion from this point. Loading merchandises onto trucks and moving them into ships then loading them back again onto trucks started over 50 years ago from North Carolina, by Malcolm McLean.

As time went by this process improved and merchandise was placed into containers, so that the entire vessel can be lifted and loaded from the chassis. And after a while, these containers were standardized for secure handling by truck, trains, and ships.

Standardization allows easy loading of goods and shipping directly to stores and warehouses without any need to unload and transfer the cargo along the way. Today, there are 5000 freighters carrying over 14 million containers worldwide. This means that manufacturers can still provide customers with various low costs goods even when they’re far away.

Types of Containers

There are different types of these shipment vessels suitable for businesses which ship their products internationally. They include:

· Flat Rack Freight

Used mostly for transporting heavy or awkwardly shaped freight. An example, if an individual is shipping pipes or heavy materials, they might require flat racks, which in real sense aren’t containers as they have no roof or sides either. In that case, you’ll always be worried about your goods’ safety.

· High Cube

High cubes are tall and come in different meters, such as 76 cubic meters.

· Refrigerated or Reefers

They resemble standard dry shipping ones only that they are fitted with insulation and refrigerator units which keep contents within at specific temperatures during shipment.

· Tank Containers

They are mostly used to ship hazardous or non-hazardous liquids and gases. They have a cylindrical tank that’s made of steel.

· Tunnel container

Used during FCL and LCL shipping and have doors at each end. It’s easier to stuff and de-stuff and is an excellent solution if you need swift loading and unloading of your goods.

Dimensions and Capacities

Below we’ll discuss the dimensions of most container types. But note that, they are available in lengths of 40 feet and 20 feet. Also, note that their width for most of them is less than 2.5 meters and only differ in height and length.

20 ft.

It’s a popular container that is used by ships of all sizes, whether big or small. Their dimensions are as follows;

· Length- 6.06 meters

· Width- 2.44 meters

· Height- 2.59 meters

It can carry a maximum weight of 30480kg for general purposes and 45000 kg for flat racks. A 20 ft. reefer container for has 27,400kg payload capacity.

40 ft.

They offer double volume as compared to 20ft and costs around 20% higher. They make 40 footers and are excellent for shipping as they’re cost-effective. They can carry a maximum gross weight of 30480kg, 60000kg, and 35000kg for general purposes, flat racks and reefer containers respectively. Their dimensions are as follows:

· Length- 12.19m

· Width- 2.44m

· Standard Height-2.59m

· High Cube Height- 2.89m


It provides better cubic space hence giving shippers extra space. It’s expensive, but it offers efficient cargo transportation and lower transports costs. Dimensions are as follows;

· Length- 13.71m

· Width- 2.44m

· Standard Height- 2.59m

· High Cube Height- 2.89m

Its payload capacity is equal to a 40 ft. container.

Note that these specific dimensions vary depending on their manufacturers, container’s age, and owner. But, there are also other containers with different dimensions that are used for road and rail transportation.

Container Markings

1. Container Number

Each container has seven numbers and four letters as allotted by the ISO. These markings identify who owns it. Numbers are unique for each. Let’s use an example to understand better. If your container number is ABCD 123456 7

· ABC represents container owner’s code.

· D denotes its category.

· 123456 are serial numbers.

· 7 is its check digit that validates its owner or product group code.

2. ISO Code

ISO code is usually written below the identification number. It provides details of size and type of that carrier. E.g., if it reads 45 G0, 4 denotes code length and 5 its width, also GP (for general purposes) DV for dry van, etc.

3. Owner’s Logo

Containers also contain vendor’s logo or name of its end door.

4. Weights and Payload

Weight and payload details are marked on its end doors. Container weight is when it’s empty. Payload shows maximum cargo weight as approved by ISO. And gross weight, is your container’s total weight and cargo within the safe limit. Individuals should avoid loading these vessels past the indicated weight on their doors and CSC plate. Proper loading ensures secure handling and stacking on ships.

5. Safe Handling Instructions

Stickers or plates identify things such as High Cube containers and hazardous cargo. For high cube shipping vessels, yellow decals are included on top of their frames on each end, which makes them more noticeable.

Other significant markings include approved classification society label, cube/volume, and certifications as well.

Locking Rods and Handles

Containers come with bolted locking rods which ensure tight sealing of their doors when twisted, closed and clapped. If your container’s rod is broken or bent, it means that its door won’t seal properly. So, it’s always essential that you confirm this.

Door Gasket

Each shipping vessel has cargo doors with rubber gaskets that allow tight shutting of doors and prevent weather from getting inside. This also helps keep cargo from spilling during freight shifting or pallet failing when transporting.

Final Thoughts

As we can see from the above discussion, shipping containers come in various dimensions. But, when shipping irregular cargo, the right vessel will depend on your merchandise’s size and weight. However, in most cases, you wouldn’t need to worry about selecting your containers. Your freight forwarder will help you out as long as you let them know what types of goods you’ll be shipping, their weight, dimensions, volumes and any other special requirement such as insulation, ventilation or temperature control.