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The Ultimate Guide to Shipping Container Sizes

Are you looking to ship your cargo safely? If so, you will need to understand more about standard shipping container sizes and types. Whether you are a business owner or an individual looking to transport your goods, choosing the right shipping container size and type is crucial.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about shipping container sizes, including standard sizes, specialty sizes, and how to choose the best shipping container size for your needs.

Common Types of Shipping Containers

There are various types of shipping containers available, with each one designed for a specific purpose or type of cargo. Here are some of the most common types of shipping containers:

Dry Containers

Standard containers are also called dry containers, cargo containers, or conex containers. They are used for the transportation of a wide range of goods that do not require refrigeration or ventilation, such as electronics, textiles, furniture, and many other items. They are made of durable aluminum or steel to provide structural integrity and should be resistant to wind and rain.

Flat Rack Containers

Flat rack containers are specialized shipping containers that have been designed without side walls or a roof. Flat racks are commonly used for transporting oversized or bulky cargo that cannot fit into standard shipping containers.

High Cube Containers

High Cube Containers are a foot taller than a standard shipping container, allowing them to accommodate taller cargo. They provide an ideal option for transporting bulky items such as machinery, vehicles, furniture, or other oversized cargo.

Refrigerated Containers

Refrigerated containers, also known as reefer containers, are a type of shipping container that have been specifically designed to transport temperature-sensitive goods. Reefer containers are equipped with a built-in cooling system, helping to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the transportation process.

Insulated Containers

Similar to refrigerated containers, insulated containers are designed to keep the temperature of their contents constant. However, unlike refrigerated containers, insulated containers maintain the temperature of their contents without actively cooling them.

Open-Top Containers

Open-top containers are a specialized type of shipping container, used to transport goods that need to be loaded from the top. They typically have removable tarpaulin roof covers to provide protection against the elements.

Open-Side Containers

Open-side containers are a type of storage container that has openings on the sides rather than container doors, allowing for easy access to the contents inside. These containers are commonly used to transport palletized cargo, machinery, and building materials.

ISO Shipping Containers

ISO shipping containers are intermodal containers that are used for transporting goods via sea, rail, or road. ISO containers are designed and constructed to withstand harsh weather conditions, heavy loads, and handling during transportation.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has set the ISO standards for these containers, which include dimensions, materials, and safety requirements.

What are the Typical Dimensions and Weights of Shipping Containers?

Standard shipping containers are most commonly used to ship cargo and are available in a variety of sizes to accommodate different types of freight. Most standard ISO shipping containers generally share the same width and height, but they do vary in length.

Standard shipping container sizes are typically 8ft wide and 8.5ft high and are available in three different lengths: 10-foot, 20-foot, and 40-foot.

So, let’s look at each of the standard shipping container sizes in more detail:

10-Foot Shipping Container

This is the least popular size of shipping container but offers space-saving benefits for those requiring a more compact container for their shipment. These smaller containers are often used for storing equipment, tools, and other items on a job site. They can also be used for small-scale shipping or as a secure on-site office or storage unit.

While the capacity of 10-foot containers is limited compared to larger containers, they are still a great option for those who need a smaller and more manageable storage solution.

20-Foot Shipping Container

A 20-foot shipping container is the most commonly used for international shipping. It is compact, durable, and can carry a substantial amount of cargo. These 20-foot containers are commonly used for transporting goods by sea, rail, or road and are also popular for storage purposes.

40-Foot Shipping Container

A 40ft shipping container is often used for cargo that is too large to fit into a 20-foot standard container type. This may include large machinery, vehicles, or oversized items that cannot be disassembled for shipping.

Additionally, some businesses may require extra storage space for their inventory, and 40-foot containers provide twice the storage capacity of 20-foot containers.

High Cube Containers

High Cube containers offer a solution for taller items that cannot fit into standard container sizes. High cube shipping containers provide an additional foot in height compared to a standard container type. This means that you can use a high cube container to ship taller cargo without having to fork out for a longer shipping container; simply choose a 10ft, 20ft, or 40 ft high cube container.

Special Container Sizes and Types

Despite standard ISO shipping containers and high cube containers being the most commonly used, there are also some other types of special containers. These other containers might be more suitable if your freight requires specific temperature control during transportation or if it cannot fit within standard shipping container dimensions.

Whether you are looking to use a reefer container, open-top container, pallet-wide container, flat rack container, or any of the other special containers available, you can be sure to find a shipping container with the size that suits your shipping requirements.

What Conditions or Grades of Shipping Containers are there?

Shipping containers are typically graded based on their current quality and past usage. Some of the common grades of shipping containers include ‘new containers,’ ‘cargo-worthy containers,’ ‘wind and watertight containers,’ and ‘as is’ or damaged containers.

New Containers

New containers are fresh out of the box and show no signs of any wear and tear. These are ideal if you want the reassurance of a brand-new shipping container in pristine condition. An example of a ‘new container’ type is a ‘one trip’ container. One trip containers have only been used once before.

Cargo-Worthy Shipping Containers

Cargo-worthy shipping containers might have a bit of wear and tear, but they have been deemed to be structurally sound and suitable for cargo transport.

Wind and Water Tight Containers

Wind and water-tight containers ensure a tight seal against wind and water, keeping your cargo safe and dry. These are ideal if your cargo is sensitive to moisture and weather conditions.

‘As is’ or damaged shipping containers

‘As is’ or damaged shipping containers might have visible wear or damage, but they are a great option for individuals or businesses looking to ship their cargo on a budget at the best price.

What does MGW or Maximum Gross Weight mean?

MGW, or Maximum Gross Weight, refers to the maximum weight limit of a loaded shipping container. This weight includes the net weight of the container itself (the tare weight), the cargo inside, and any additional equipment used for loading and unloading.

The MGW will depend upon the size of the shipping container that you use. It is important to adhere to the MGW limit when shipping containers to ensure the safety of the cargo and the shipping vessel.

How Do You Calculate the Cubic Capacity of a Shipping Container?

To calculate the cubic capacity of a shipping container, you need to measure the length, width, and height of the container in feet or meters. Now, just multiply all of these container dimensions together to get the cubic capacity of your shipping container, either in cubic feet or cubic meters.

You may wish to do this for both the interior dimensions and exterior dimensions on your shipping container.

How to choose the right shipping container size for you

When planning to ship your freight, choosing the right shipping container size is crucial. Here are some tips to help you select the appropriate container size for your needs:

  1. Firstly, you should consider the size and properties of your cargo. Is it bulky, tall, or temperature-sensitive? This information will guide your choice of shipping container size and type. Remember to factor in not just the size of your cargo but also its weight.
  2. If possible, consider using standard shipping container sizes first. Standard 20-foot or 40-foot containers are widely available and often work out cheaper to source.
  3. If your shipment has unique requirements, consider using special containers such as a reefer, flat rack, or open top container.
  4. Think about how you will load and unload your freight from the shipping container. It might be worth investing in shipping containers with side doors or double doors to ease the process.
  5. Remember to factor in cost and value for money into your decision-making. You should make sure that you choose a shipping container that is within your budget while also ensuring that you get the most value for your money.
  6. Don’t hesitate to reach out to shipping professionals. They can provide you with personalized advice based on your specific cargo and route.

Are Storage Containers and Shipping Containers Different Sizes?

While shipping containers and storage containers typically share the same container dimensions, there can be a difference in size between the two. Both types of containers are typically made from steel and have a similar shape. However, shipping containers may be larger than storage containers.

Notably, the regulations for storage containers are less strict. Shipping containers are required to have a CSC plate (Convention for Safe Containers) to certify their quality, but storage containers do not require this.

The CSC plate must contain vital information about the shipping container, such as the owner’s name and address, the shipping container’s unique identification number, the date of manufacture, the maximum weight permitted, and other safety-related information. The CSC plate is attached to the exterior of the shipping container and serves as proof that the container has been inspected and certified as safe for transportation.

How Much Does a Shipping Container Cost?

The cost of a shipping container varies depending on several factors, such as its size, condition, and location. For example, a brand-new standard shipping container might set you back between $5,000 and $7,000, while opting for a smaller, pre-owned container could bring that cost down to as little as $1,000.

For many individuals and businesses, it works out to be more cost effective to rent a shipping container. This is particularly true for short-term or temporary storage needs. Renting a container allows you to avoid the upfront costs of purchasing a container, and you only pay for the time you use it.

Additionally, renting a container can provide you with greater flexibility when it comes to different shipping container sizes and specifications, as you can easily switch to a different container as your needs change.

Shipping your Cargo with CFR Classic

At CFR Classic, we understand the importance of selecting the right shipping container sizes to meet the diverse needs of your shipment.

Whether you need to transport large machinery, bulky goods, small items, or temperature-sensitive freight, our expert team will help you to find the perfect shipping container size.

Our shipping experts will guide you through the entire shipping process, taking into account your budget, the nature of your goods, and the destination of your shipment.

Contact CFR Classic Today

Contact CFR Classic today to learn more about our shipping container sizes and how we can help you with your next shipment.

With CFR Classic, you can rest assured that your goods will arrive at their destination intact and on time.

Joey has spent his entire teen and adult life in cars. Joey's father owned a Jeep store, and Joey had his own used car lot that he ran himself from age 22 until I was 30. At 30 years old, Joey got "out of" the car business and joined CFR Rinkens. Joey started when there were only 9 people at CFR, but the company grew to over 150 employees during his time there. When Joey started, CFR Rinkens was shipping about 40 vehicles per week from Los Angeles. Joey established locations in Houston, Miami, and New York and within the first year, CFR went to shipping 150 cars per week. Joey started as a customer service rep and later moved up to sales manager, operations manager, and marketing manager. Joey then moved to Europe for two years and spent the entire time traveling through Europe meeting with clients. In 2022, Joey and his partners purchased CFR Classic from CFR Rinkens and he returned to California to watch over the operation more closely.

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