Shipping Container Specifications July 24, 2023 – Posted in: Uncategorized

Shipping Container Specifications: Everything You Need to Know

Shipping Container Specifications

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## Introduction

Shipping Container Specifications

Shipping containers have revolutionized the transportation and storage industry, providing a reliable and efficient method for moving goods across the globe. These durable standardized containers, also known as Conex or Connex containers, ISO containers, or intermodal containers, are manufactured to strict standards to ensure the safety and security of the cargo they carry. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the specifications of shipping containers, including their dimensions, materials, markings, and types. Whether you are involved in the shipping industry or simply curious about these remarkable structures, this article will provide you with all the essential information you need to know. Shipping Container Specifications

The Origins of Shipping Containers

The concept of using standardized shipping containers originated in the United States, but today, most containers are manufactured in China or Europe. To meet the rigorous demands of sea transportation, these containers must adhere to the manufacturing standards set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). These standards ensure that the containers can withstand the harsh elements experienced at sea, such as wind, rain, snow, ice, and heat.

ISO Shipping Container Dimensions

ISO (International Organization for Standardization) sets the standards for shipping container dimensions worldwide. The most common sizes used in North America are the 20-foot and 40-foot containers. A 20-foot container has a length of 20 feet, a width of 8 feet, and a height of 8 feet 6 inches. On the other hand, a 40-foot container has the same width and height but is double the length at 40 feet. These dimensions allow for efficient stacking and transportation of goods on cargo ships, trucks, and railcars.

In addition to the standard sizes, there are also custom-sized containers available, ranging from as short as 8 feet to as long as 45, 48, and even 53 feet. Some containers, known as high-cube or hi-cube containers, are one foot taller in height at 9 feet 6 inches. These variations in size offer flexibility in meeting specific cargo requirements.

To give you a visual representation of the standard shipping container dimensions, refer to the table below:

Container SizeLength (feet)Width (feet)Height (feet)Height (feet) (High Cube)
20 ft2088’6″
40 ft4088’6″
45 ft4588’6″
High Cube9’6″

Please note that these dimensions are a representation of the commonly used containers, and specific container dimensions may vary depending on the manufacturer, age, and owner.

Materials Used in Shipping Containers

Shipping containers are constructed using durable materials such as steel or aluminum. Steel containers are the most common, known for their strength, durability, and ability to withstand extreme weather conditions. They provide excellent protection for dry and packaged cargo. On the other hand, aluminum containers are lighter in weight and can handle slightly larger payloads. The choice of material depends on the specific requirements and preferences of the cargo owner. Shipping Container Specifications

Markings on Shipping Containers

Shipping containers are marked with various codes, symbols, and signs to provide important information about their identification, type, weight, and safety. These markings are standardized and regulated to ensure consistency and clear communication within the shipping industry. Let’s explore some of the common markings found on shipping containers:

Container Number

The container number is the primary identification marking on the door end of an ISO container. It consists of a unique combination of seven numbers and four letters assigned by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The container number helps to identify the owner, category, and serial number of the container.

Owner’s Logo

The shipping line or container vendor’s logo or name is displayed on the end door of the container. This helps to identify the company responsible for the container.

ISO Code

The ISO container code is stenciled below the container identification number. It provides details about the type of container, such as general purpose (GP) or dry van (DV), and denotes the size of the container. For example, “45 G0” indicates a 45-foot container with a general purpose design.

Weights & Payload

The weight-related information of the container is marked on the end door. This includes the tare weight (the weight of the empty container), gross weight (the total weight of the container and cargo), and payload (the maximum cargo weight the container can carry).

Approved Classification Society Label

Before a shipping container is used for cargo transfer, it undergoes testing for seaworthiness and compliance with ISO standards by an approved classification society. The label of the class is displayed on the end door of the container, providing assurance of its safety and quality.

Cube or Volume

The cubic capacity or volume of the container is marked on the end door. This information helps determine the amount of cargo that can be loaded into the container.

Warning and Operational Signs

Shipping containers may carry various warning labels and signs depending on the type of cargo they are transporting. For example, containers carrying hazardous materials will have specific warning signs indicating the nature of the hazard or cargo.


Containers are required to display certain certifications using plates. The most common certification plate is the Container Safety Convention (CSC) plate, which indicates that the container has been inspected and tested by approved authorities. Another important certification is the Approved Continuous Examination Programme (ACEP), which ensures that the container undergoes regular inspections to maintain its safety standards.

Types of Shipping Containers

Shipping containers come in various types to accommodate different types of cargo and transportation needs. Let’s explore some of the common types of shipping containers:

Dry Storage Containers

Dry storage containers are the most commonly used type of shipping container. They are designed to carry dry cargo, such as packaged goods, machinery, or equipment. These containers are available in different sizes, including 10-foot, 20-foot, and 40-foot variations.

Flat Rack Containers

Flat rack containers are used for transporting oversized or irregularly shaped cargo. They have collapsible sides, allowing for easy loading and unloading of cargo from the sides. Flat rack containers are commonly used for transporting heavy machinery, vehicles, or construction materials.

Open Top Containers

Open top containers have a removable top, which allows for easy loading and unloading of cargo from the top. They are ideal for transporting tall or bulky items that cannot fit through the standard container doors. Open top containers are commonly used for carrying oversized machinery, timber, or goods that require crane access.

Refrigerated ISO Containers

Refrigerated ISO containers, also known as reefer containers, are designed to transport temperature-sensitive cargo. They are equipped with a refrigeration unit to maintain a controlled temperature throughout the journey. Reefer containers are commonly used for transporting perishable goods, such as fruits, vegetables, or pharmaceuticals.

ISO Tanks

ISO tanks are specialized containers used for transporting liquids or gases in bulk. They are constructed with a cylindrical shape and are often used for transporting chemicals, fuels, or food-grade liquids. ISO tanks provide a safe and efficient method for transporting bulk liquids.

High Cube Containers

High cube containers are similar to standard containers but are one foot taller, providing additional vertical space. These containers are ideal for shipping cargo that requires extra height, such as machinery, vehicles, or oversized goods. High cube containers offer increased storage capacity and flexibility.

Special Purpose Containers

Special purpose containers are designed to meet specific cargo requirements. They include containers such as open side storage containers, half-height containers, and specialized containers for transporting unique cargo. Special purpose containers cater to a wide range of specialized cargo needs in various industries.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the largest size shipping container? The largest size shipping containers are the 53-foot containers, which are considered high cube containers. They are one foot taller and six inches wider than standard containers, providing extra volume for cargo.
  2. What are the dimensions of a 40-foot container? A standard 40-foot container has a length of 40 feet, a width of 8 feet, and a height of 8 feet 6 inches. However, there may be slight variations in dimensions depending on the container manufacturer.
  3. Are all containers the same width? Shipping containers come in various sizes, but the most common width is 8 feet. The height of standard containers is 8 feet 6 inches, while high cube containers have an extended height of 9 feet 6 inches.
  4. What are the different types of containers? Shipping containers come in different types to accommodate various cargo requirements. Some common types include dry storage containers, flat rack containers, open top containers, refrigerated ISO containers, ISO tanks, high cube containers, and special purpose containers.
  5. What is the most commonly used shipping container? The most commonly used shipping containers are dry storage containers. They are versatile and can carry a wide range of dry goods. Dry storage containers are available in different sizes, such as 10-foot, 20-foot, and 40-foot variations.


Shipping containers have transformed the transportation and storage industry, offering a reliable and efficient method for moving goods across the globe. Understanding the specifications of shipping containers, including their dimensions, materials, markings, and types, is essential for anyone involved in the shipping industry or interested in learning more about these remarkable structures. Whether you are a cargo owner, a logistics professional, or simply curious about the world of shipping, this comprehensive guide has provided you with a detailed overview of shipping container specifications. By knowing the ins and outs of these containers, you can ensure the safe and efficient transportation of goods and contribute to the global economy.