SEPTEMBER 7, 2022
Shipping containers have contributed significantly to the boom in international trade. Before the cargo container came into existence, people transported goods in small boxes, crates, barrels, and other containers of non-uniform size. This made stacking difficult, timely, and led to lots of wasted space.
Standard containers revolutionized the transport systems by providing solutions to these problems. A shipping container that meets the International Organization for Standardization's (ISO) specifications is also known as an ISO shipping container.
As much as 95% of intermodal containers conform to ISO standards in terms of size.
Shipping containers are also known as sea or ocean containers, cargo containers, and freight containers. If you are wondering if there's any difference between Conex, cargo, and storage containers, you should know that you can use these terms interchangeably.
Currently, over 20 million ISO standard containers are in use, moving 80 percent of the international trade by road, rail, and air. In this article, we’ll look into the history of ISO containers, the different types, and their applications.
ISO containers are international trade compliant and have specifications as per the standards of the International Standards Organization. They are standardized shipping containers made with corrugated steel that meet the intermodal freight transport durability requirements through ships, railways, and trucks.
The capacity of ISO containers is usually in twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). ISO containers can withstand extreme environments and have high structural integrity. Commercial shipping operators can safely and uniformly stack cargo containers on ships, trains, and container yards.
Let's take a look at the different types of ISO containers:
Dry containers - These are the most common ISO containers in the shipping industry. They are suitable for transporting dry items that do not require temperature control. Dry containers are not fit for transporting liquids, food items, and chemicals. They have innovative applications outside of the transportation industry. Businesses are using dry containers as:
Refrigerated containers - They are also called 'reefers' and are suitable for transporting goods that need temperature control between -65 °C and 40 °C. This includes perishable food items.
Reefers have an internal refrigeration unit but need an external power source to run. You will need a power source on the ship, land-based site, or the quay. If you are transporting refrigerated containers on a truck or a train, you can draw power from diesel-powered generators.
Tank containers - ISO containers are safe to transport gases and liquids, including chemicals. They usually have an anti-corrosive coating that keeps the steel safe from hazardous chemicals.
ISO containers are ideal for transporting molasses, milk and dairy products, beverages, liquefied sugars, hydrogen peroxide, sulfuric/nitric acid, solvents and chemicals, heating oil, vegetable oil, gasoline, diesel, and liquid resins.
Open top containers - Top loading containers are suitable for dry storage but come without a roof. This makes it easy to load and unload heavy cargo. Once you load the cargo, you can secure it with a plastic roof to protect it from rain, dust, and other precipitation forms.
Open side containers - They have two hinged door units, one that opens on the far end and another on the side. This significantly improves the accessibility and provides more room to enter the container. Open side containers are useful when large cargo cannot fit through the usual doors.
Flat rack containers - Flat racks are platform-based containers with an open top and two side walls. Sometimes they come with additional walls that you can attach or detach as required. A flat rack container makes it convenient to load heavy cargo from the top or sides. It is suitable for transporting heavy machinery.
High cube containers - These containers have a 1-ft. extended height compared to standard dry containers. They have taller doors and some additional weight. They are the same as dry containers but can transport cargo with greater heights.
People often use high-cube containers for building homes and offices with insulation, false interior roofs, and floors. The extra height in these containers makes it easy to live in.
Half-height containers - They have a lower center of gravity and can handle heavy loads better than their taller counterparts. Half-height containers can easily transport dense goods such as coal and stones.
Tunnel containers - They have an opening on both sides, which makes the container resemble a tunnel. Tunnel containers are suitable for storing oversized objects which are difficult to turn around. Having two openings makes it easy, as you can use one as an entry and the other as an exit.
Special purpose containers - These containers are custom-made to any size according to the type of cargo they are transporting. Transporting them is expensive due to their non-standard size. Some examples of where they are useful include military applications to transport weapons and communication systems.
The table below shows the standard dimensions of ISO containers (common lengths, widths, and heights). The values may vary slightly according to the manufacturer but should remain within the tolerance limits in the ISO standard.
ISO 6346 is the international standard for the identification of an ISO container. Bureau International des Containers (BIC) covers all ISO containers' serial numbers, ownership details, sizes, and country codes. The ISO container category identifier codes are:
You will find a detailed table of ISO container size codes below:
ISO Container Type Group
ISO Container Size Type
GENERAL PURPOSE CONTAINER
GENERAL PURPOSE CONT.
FLAT (FIXED ENDS)
FLAT (COLL.FLUSH FOLDING)
FLAT (GENSET CARRIER)
REEFER CONT.(NO FOOD)
BUILT-IN GEN. F. POWER SPLY OF REEF
NAMED CARGO CONTAINER
OPEN TOP CONTAINER
TANK FOR GAS
OPEN TOP (HALF HEIGHT)
VE-HALF-HEIGHT =1448 MM HEIGHT
GEN. PURP. WITHOUT VENT WIDTH 2.5M
HIGH CUBE CONT. (WIDTH 2.5M)
FLAT (SPACE SAVER)
FLAT SPACE SAVER
REEFER CONT.(DIESEL GEN.)
HIGH CUBE CONT.
HIGH CUBE CONTAINER
REEFER HIGHCUBE CONTAINER
HIGH CUBE HARDTOP CONT.
INSULATED SHIPPING CONTAINER
GP CONTAINER (WIDTH 2.5 M)
These sizes are common in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico:
Smaller 10-foot containers are sometimes of deviating lengths with non-standard widths and heights. They are for storage or off-shore use.
Shipping containers have evolved over many decades. The British first started using containers in the 1800s to haul with trains and horses. After a century of use, the first patents on shipping containers emerged.
Malcolm McLean first came up with standardizing haulage containers in the 1950s. He was a truck driver who entered the road haulage business and eventually bought the Pan Atlantic Tanker company, renaming it Seal-Land Shipping.
The first-ever container patented was a stackable steel unit. It had reinforced corners that made it very easy to stack without breaking. The design was uniform in size, theft-resistant, and easy to load. In April 1956, the first cargo ship set sail with 58 containers onboard.
Remember, every minute counts when loading a container ship. Any delay results in demurrage charges (the hourly penalty for overshooting the time).
Freight container handling companies find it extremely easy and cost-efficient to load and unload a standard-sized ISO container.
From there, shipping containers grew into a more significant idea than just intermodal transport. The first container-based homes started appearing in 1987. Philip Clark later patented this method in 1989.
Shipping containers really took off during the U.S.-Vietnam War in 1960. The U.S. military started developing alternative means to transport equipment quickly to the frontlines and reached out to Sea-Land shipping, a Malcolm McLean Company, to help with their supply chain.
It was quick and easy to seal the containers in the U.S. and send the shipment to Vietnam, where the containers would reach the troops on trucks. The empty boxes came back to the U.S. on container ships from ports in Japan.
ISO shipping containers remain robust modular structures. They are easy to cut, stackable, affordable, and widely used. As such, it is not surprising that they also provide other valuable functions. Storage sheds, generator housing, and housing are just a few of the different applications they serve.
Construction companies that work at multiple locations rent containers for portable offices, storage, and other purposes. When the work is complete, they return the container or ask the supplier to move it to the following location.
Mobile Modular Portable Solutions provides new and used metal storage containers for residential, commercial, and industrial applications. Call us at 866-459-7600 or get in touch with us to learn more about our industry-specific container solutions for rent and sale.
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) ISO tanks are specialized tanks to hold gas at temperatures of -162 °C (-260 °F). The container's interior wall is nickel steel, and the outer wall is carbon steel. They can also transport liquids and powders (hazardous and non-hazardous). Due to their standard size, it is easy to transport them on a ship, truck, or railway with other ISO containers.
The standard 20-foot ISO tank holds 21,000 liters (5,547 gallons) of liquid. Other common sizes are 15,000 liters (3,963 gallons), 17,500 liters (4,623 gallons), and 23,000 liters (6,076 gallons).
The cost of a shipping container depends on its size, condition, and features. New containers are more expensive than used containers. To get a better idea, a used 10-foot container costs less than $3,000 and a new one below $5,000. A new 40-foot container may cost around $8,000. To get the exact pricing, consult your supplier with your requirements.
Renting or buying a container depends on various factors:
With appropriate care such as rust prevention, painting, and repairs, a container can easily last for 25 years or more.
Shipping containers feature marine-grade standardized steel that can withstand extreme environments at sea. This makes them highly resistant to fire, water, and other environmental factors. If you want additional security for storing expensive equipment, you can choose containers with high-security locks.
This decision depends on the following factors:
By following these maintenance steps, you can increase the life of your intermodal container systems significantly:
The four corner fittings of the two containers must perfectly align when you stack. Once you put the containers in place, secure the twist-lock at each corner fittings to secure the unit.
Yes, they are. ISO containers on ships need to keep the contents safe from wind and water, for which they have heavy-duty rubber gaskets on the doors.
OSHA defines numerous methods for the safe handling of intermodal containers during stacking and loading. Gantry cranes, straddle carriers, reach stackers, top loaders, forklifts, are often required to do the job.
Insulation in thermal containers creates a vapor barrier with high heat resistance. You can insulate a shipping container with spray foam insulation made with polyurethane materials. Alternatively, you can use cotton, cork, or wool-based natural materials.
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