In the shipping industry, cargo shipping containers are vital throughout the entire shipping purpose. 

Shipping containers were devised by Malcolm Mclean and Keith Tantlinger in 1955. This new invention helped bring down transport costs, allowing international trade to flourish. The original design was for a simple unit that was 8ft tall, 8ft wide, and 10ft long. Today, there are a number of cargo shipping containers. Each and every container has a very specific purpose. Knowing which container to utilize could sometimes, make or break a shipment.

  1. Dry Storage Container

The jack-of-all trades of cargo shipping containers. This is the most common container in the shipping industry. Dry storage containers can be commonly found in lengths of 10, 20, and 40 feet and as the name suggests, they are designed to transport dry goods. These containers can only be opened from one side of the container and are not designed to carry refrigerated goods or chemicals.

  1. Open Top Container

As the name implies, open top containers are containers with a completely removable convertible top. The purpose of having open top containers is to allow loading and unloading of over-height cargo. A roof structure can also be put on top to protect the cargo from any kind of precipitation. Open top containers are available in 20’ and 40’ sizes.

  1. Flat Rack Container

Similar to open top containers, flat rack containers are made with the purpose of loading cargo that does not fit the normal dimensions of a dry storage container. Flat rack containers are containers with collapsible sides so there is only a flat surface. Flat rack containers are usually used to carry out-of-gauge cargo and are also available in 20’ and 40’ sizes.

  1. Tunnel Container

The tunnel container gets its name from its appearance. Tunnel containers have doors on both sides making it look similar to a tunnel when opened. Aside from having 2 sets of doors, tunnel containers are just like the normal dry storage containers but having doors on both sides allow for relatively easy loading and unloading of cargo. Tunnel containers are also sometimes known as double-door containers.

  1. Open Side Container

These containers have doors on the side that open completely to provide loading and unloading space for wider cargo that wouldn’t otherwise fit in a regular dry container. 

  1. Double Door Container

Double door container is the marriage of a normal dry container and an open side container. These containers have doors along the side as well as doors on one of the ends of the container.

  1. High Cube Container

High cube containers are cargo shipping containers which are about a foot taller than the normal dry container. High cubes are used when more volume is required by the cargo. High cube containers are usually found in 40’ sizes and sometimes 45’.

  1. Half-height Container

Half-height containers are the opposite of high cube containers. These shipping containers are, as the name suggests, half the height of a regular container. These containers are mostly used to store small but heavy cargo, avoiding space wastage in the case where the cargo is stored in a regular container.

  1. ISO Reefer/Refrigerated Container

Refrigerated containers are usually referred to as reefer containers. These containers are for temperature sensitive containers that must be held in a specific low temperature such as medicine, food, and other perishables.

  1. Insulated/Thermal Container

For relatively less-temperature sensitive cargo, insulated or thermal containers might do the deal. These containers do not need any external power and are wrapped in insulation to keep the temperature inside the container away from external elements. These containers also usually have mechanical compressors to assist in keeping the container temperature steady.

  1. Tanks

Even though tanks can be used to store dry goods such as sugar, tanks are containers that are designed to hold liquid. Tanks are usually made out of strong anti-corrosive materials because of the chemicals that they usually store. A tank must be 80-95% full to avoid dangerous liquid surges that might cause catastrophic accidents and never 100% full to account for thermal expansion due to heat.

  1. Car Carrier

Car carriers are containers that are designed to hold cars, but what is the difference between a normal dry container and a car carrier? There is not much difference but sometimes a car manufacturer will customize a car carrier to maximize the volume of the container depending on the car that will be loaded. It is very common to see 1 car carrier holding 2 cars to maximize space.

  1. Intermediate Bulk Shift Container

Intermediate Bulk Containers or IBCs are containers designed for liquids and often have a standard footprint of 48″x40″ which enables easy shipping, conveying and transport due to it being a common pallet size in North America and other countries.

There is a tap or valve at the base where a hose can be attached to allow easy transfer of contents into smaller containers for easy packaging, distribution and sale in your target location. This is important when certain packaging and legal requirements need to be ensured locally.

  1. Special Purpose Container

Special purpose containers are any other containers that do not comply with the available standard range of containers. Special purpose containers can be built to fit any size or dimension. These are custom built containers that fulfill the shipping needs of an importer/exporter. Shippers usually avoid these kinds of containers to remove unnecessary complexity and additional costs.

Still have a container dilemma?

Shipping containers does not have to be stressful, let SFI handle your shipments! Get in touch with us now and we’ll figure out the best container options for you.