Open-Sided Shipping Containers: Features, Benefits, and Alternatives


  • Share Article :
storage containers for rent or sale

From multi-cuisine restaurants to schools and affordable housing complexes, people worldwide are using the shipping container architecture to build a variety of unique and efficient structures.

One of the primary advantages of using cargo containers is that they are readily available in many sizes and types, each offering a specific set of advantages for niche applications. An open-sided or side-opening shipping container is one such specialized unit that works tremendously well for easy-access storage.

Let's look at what makes side-opening shipping containers unique.

Request a Quote

What is an Open-Sided or Side-Opening Container?

An open-sided container has an extra set of doors on its side, making loading and unloading cargo much more convenient. 

Although they have similar features as a standard storage container, they have two additional bi-fold doors instead of a solid wall.

The bi-fold doors open just like conventional doors on the end of a shipping container.  You can also open the bi-fold portion if you need full access to the container from the side, earning them the name 'Side Access Container.'

These containers are also known as side-opening containers as they open on two sides, unlike a standard shipping container with lockable double doors that open only on one end.

Open-Sided or Side-Opening Container.jpg

What are Open-Sided Containers Used for?

A full-side access container is difficult to build due to the additional engineering and strength required for constructing a side opening door, thus limiting their use in international shipping. However, some shipping companies specifically use side opening containers to carry oversized cargo, which makes loading and unloading via end doors impossible. 

Most open-side container units tend to find applications in the retail market.

These containers are also perfect for conversions. You can build attractive shops, exhibition stalls, cafes, bars, operating rooms for boilers and generators, and even portable stages.

However, open-sided containers often cost twice as much as a standard container. They are scarce in the market, and you'll seldom find second-hand side opening shipping containers.

Open-side containers are also ideal for building secure storage and warehouse units. Instead of searching through a dark container and unloading the items inside to make room for access, you can quickly open the side doors and get what you need. The side-door arrangement also gives hassle-free entry to forklifts and works well for palletized storage.

Types of Side-Opening Shipping Containers

Open-sided shipping containers are most commonly available in 20-foot and 40-foot sizes. Depending on the height of your cargo, you can choose the standard height (8'6") or the high cube (9' 6") options in both sizes.

The dimensions of the standard containers with open-sided cargo doors are as follows:

20-Foot Open-Sided Storage Containers

A standard side-opening container has the following dimensions:

  • Exterior Dimensions: 20' Length x 8' Width x 8' 6" Height
  • Interior Dimensions: 19' Length x 7'8" Width x 7'10" Height
  • Door Dimensions: 7'8" Width x 7'5" Height
  • Weight: 2,300 kg (5,072 lbs.)

Similarly, a high-cube open-sided storage container comes in the following size:

  • Exterior Dimensions: 20' Length x 8' Width x 9' 6" Height
  • Interior Dimensions: 19'4" Length x 7'6" Width x 8'6" Height
  • Door Dimensions: 8'2" Width x 7'4" Height
  • Weight: 3,550 kg (7,385 lbs.)

40-Foot Open-Sided Storage Containers

A standard 40-foot full side-access container has the following dimensions:

  • Exterior Dimensions: 40' Length x 8' Width x 8' 6" Height
  • Interior Dimensions: 39' 5" Length x 7' 5" Width x 7' 6" Height
  • Door Dimensions: 7' 8 ⅛" Width x 7' 6 ¼" Height
  • Weight: 6,100 kg (13,448 lbs.

Similarly, typical 40-foot high-cube side-opening containers have the following size:

  • Exterior Dimensions: 40' Length x 8' Width x 9'6" Height
  • Interior Dimensions: 39'5" Length x 7'6" Width x 8'1" Height
  • Door Dimensions: 7'3" Width x 7'10" Height
  • Weight: 6,582 kg (14,510 lbs.)

Custom Made Side-Opening Containers

You can ask your manufacturer to convert the side walls of a used container into standard doors of varying sizes that open at the side of the container. You can also replace the original container doors in open-sided containers with personnel doors if you're building an office unit.

Custom-made containers have the same features as side-opening storage containers. The main difference between the two is that you can select the door size to match your chosen design. 

Custom Made Side-Opening Containers.jpg

Features of Open-Side Containers

Open-sided containers have the following features, similar to a standard container:

  • High-Strength, Corrugated Steel Construction
  • Ground-Level Access
  • Wind and Weatherproof
  • Forklift Pockets for Easy Movement

Additionally, an open-side storage container also offers:

  • 180-270 Degree Swing Side Doors
  • Full access to the container through the side walls
  • Quick sorting without unloading the container

You can also customize an open-side container with:

  • Lock Box on door handles
  • Interior and Exterior Coloring
  • Durable Flooring
  • Custom made personnel doors

What are the Alternatives to an Open-Side Shipping Container?

If you're unable to find an open-side container for your project, you can use the following alternatives:

  • Factory Built Containers
  • Converted Shipping Containers
  • Curtain-sided Shipping Containers

Let's take a closer look at these popular alternatives.

Factory Built Containers

Factory-built container units are one of the most abundantly available alternatives since they have a standard size and function. Typically, these are the types of factory-built container boxes you can use:

Double Door/Tunnel Containers

Just as the name suggests, double-door containers have two doors-one on each end of the container. Although they do not open as much as open-side containers, they make loading and unloading significantly easier. Shipping service providers sell tunnel containers for a fraction of the price of side-opening containers.


End Opening Containers

Most standard containers have doors at one end with the opposite end closed. Most shipping lines use standard end-opening containers, which means it’s relatively easy to find containers with doors on one end. 

You can purchase as many as three used 20 ft. containers for the price of a single one-trip, side-opening container. 

If you're not planning a significant overhaul or intend to store standard cargo, end-opening containers can be highly cost-effective.

shipping containers.jpg


Converted Shipping Containers

If you have a custom design in mind or plan on building on location, you can look into shipping container conversions. You can contact a container design specialist or DIY the process if you have the will and skill. Here are some ideas for converted shipping container units:

Shipping Container with Additional Side Doors

You can remove one entire side and install multiple additional doors on any of the long sides without affecting the operationality of the end doors. Alternatively, you can weld a single lightweight, prefabricated door on the side that you've cut open.

Modifying shipping containers.jpg

Storage Containers with Roller Shutters

You can also convert the container's side into a manually or electrically operated roller shutter. The roller door can function as a secondary entry point as well as provide easy access to goods inside the container. Roller shutters are particularly beneficial for quickly accessing hand tools and power equipment at construction sites.

Storage Containers with Roller Shutters.jpg

Curtain-Sided Storage Containers

If you've cut open the container and are looking for a quick and cost-effective door, curtains can be a great option. Curtains are much easier to open and shut than heavy metal doors. You can also latch the curtain fully to close the unit.

Curtain-sided Storage Containers.jpg


Open-sided containers offer several unique benefits that make them an excellent choice for storing, loading, and unloading oversized equipment. As specially engineered units, they are few in number and much costlier than standard cargo containers that open on one end. 

You can select from several alternatives to side-opening containers to cut down your expenses and wait time for the container.

Mobile Modular Portable Storage is one of the top suppliers of ISO-grade storage containers and offices. We also offer double doors and high-security units for sale and rent that can function as efficient alternatives to open-side containers. 

Our fleet of highly-trained drivers and specialized vehicles provide delivery at all the major locations in the United States.

Call us at 866-459-7600 or get in touch with us to learn more about shipping container pricing, offers, and discounts.



What are Open-Side Containers Used For?

Open-side containers help in the easy loading and unloading of oversized cargo. They also find applications in creating custom buildings such as cafes, bars, boiler operation rooms, etc.

Do Shipping Containers Open at Both Ends?

Only double-door shipping containers open at both ends, allowing you to load and unload cargo from either end.

What Sizes are Side-Opening Containers Available in?

Side opening containers are most commonly available in 20-foot and 40-foot sizes. Depending upon the height of your cargo, you can choose the standard height (8'6") or the high cube (9' 6") options in both sizes.

How Much Does it Cost to Buy a 40 ft. Open-Sided Container?

A 40 ft. open-sided container, being a specially engineered unit, can cost twice as much as a standard container ($3,000-$8,000). The price of an open-sided container also depends upon the condition, availability, size, and additional modifications.

Loading Conversation