A shipping container (also known as container, freight container, intermodal container, ISO container, hi-cube container, box, conex box and sea can) is a steel container, that can be used repeatedly in the safe, efficient movement of products within an intermodal freight transport system.



Shipping container sizes

There are a multitude of different sizes and options when it comes to container shipping, including specialist choices such as hanging garment containers, half height containers, bulk shift containers and tanks. Whilst these all have their uses, they are very niche and best served by another article, so for now we will concentrate on GP (general purpose) container shipping, and the more common special equipment such as reefer containers, Open Top containers and Flat Rack containers. Shipping container dimensions can be found below.

Shipping container dimensions table

20ft STANDARD 33 cu / m 5.895 m 2.350 m 2.392 m 2.340 m 2.292 m 28230 Kgs 2230 Kgs
40ft STANDARD 67 cu / m 12.029 m 2.350 m 2.392 m 2.340 m 2.292 m 26700 Kgs 3780 Kgs
40ft HIGH-CUBE 76 cu / m 12.024 m 2.350 m 2.697 m 2.340 m 2.597 m 26460 Kgs 4020 Kgs
20ft OPEN TOP 32 cu / m 5.888 m 2.345 m 2.315 m 2.286 m 2.184 m 30480 Kgs 2250 Kgs
40ft OPEN TOP 65 cu / m 12.029 m 2.342 m 2.326 m 2.342 m 2.274 m 26670 Kgs 3810 Kgs
20ft REFRIGERATED 26 cu / m 5.724 m 2.286 m 2.014 m 2.286 m 2.067 m 21450 Kgs 2550 Kgs
40ft REFRIGERATED 60 cu / m 11.840 m 2.286 m 2.120 m 2.286 m 2.195 m 26630 Kgs 3850 Kgs
20ft FLATRACK Open 5.698 m 2.230 m 2.255 m No Door No Door 21500 Kgs 2500 Kgs
40ft FLATRACK Open 11.832 m 2.228 m 1.982 m No Door No Door 40800 Kgs 4200 Kgs
20ft PLATFORM Open 6.058 m 2.438 m 0.370 m No Door No Door 27960 Kgs 2520 Kgs
40ft PLATFORM Open 12.192 m 2.245 m 0.648 m No Door No Door 39300 Kgs 5700 Kgs
20ft TANK NA 6.058 m 2.438 m 2.438 m No Door No Door 26290 Kgs 4190 Kgs


History of shipping containers

The use of a shipping container in modern container shipping has been around for over 50 years. Pretty much from the first voyage, usage grew steadily, moving containers became accepted and in just five short decades container ships would carry well over 50% of the cargo shipped via ocean freight.

Whilst packing and moving things in boxes or containers was not particularly new, It wasn’t until Malcolm P. McLean and Keith Tantlinger developed the modern intermodal container, when having realised it would be much simpler and quicker to have one container that could be lifted from a vehicle directly on to a ship without first having to unload its contents. Containers could then be moved smoothly between trucks, trains & ships, making the whole logistics process a lot more efficient.

Benefits of container shipping

There are numerous benefits to container shipping, one of the key ones being increased efficiency.

A large container ship could carry over 200,000 sea containers in a single year, and around 8000 on a single voyage. It would take hundreds of aircraft and fleets of trucks to get anywhere near moving the same amount of freight.

This is also why Ocean Container shipping is the most environmentally friendly method of transportation. Producing less exhaust gas emissions than rail freight, road freight or air freight. Vetting agency RightShip has developed an online “GHG Emissions Rating” as a systemised way for the industry to compare a ship’s CO2 emissions to similar sized vessels. The use of higher rated ships can deliver significantly lower CO2 emissions across the voyage length.


Shipping containers for sale

Because the UK imports more containers than it exports, there is a regular supply of surplus shipping containers for sale at good prices. Some things to consider before buying a shipping container are.

Do you intend to export your shipping container ?

If so, you need to ensure that the container complies with ISO container regulations, is certified and plated.

Are you using for storage ?

Using shipping containers for storage can be a great alternative to building similarly secure storage units. If used for storage shipping containers are not bound by the same ISO shipping standards, and as such can be modified in different ways to fit your purpose.

We have access to great shipping container prices for both used and new – to buy shipping containers and for more information on the cost of shipping containers contact us at: info@freightfilter.com

…Some people have found even more novel uses for sea containers…


Shipping container homes.

Not content with being the ‘lynchpin of our global distribution network’. Shipping containers are actually being utilised to create some pretty eye-catching, eco-friendly and affordable housing.

Shipping container home architecture is becoming more and more popular and is moving from a cost saving solution for storage, markets and basic cheap housing, into desirable futuristic homes like the Redondo Beach House – designed by Peter Demaria.

Shipping container houses do have there hurdles to overcome, namely safety regulations, dealing with solar heat gain & adequate insulation, but the results can be staggeringly worthwhile.


Caterpillar House, by Chilean architect Sebastián Irarrázaval, was completed in 2012, measures 350 sq m (3,800 sq ft), and comprises a total of 12 shipping containers which provide bedrooms, living quarters, and even a swimming pool.

New Jerusalem Orphanage by 4D and A Architects. used a total of 28 shipping containers, some measuring 6 x 2.5 m (20 x 8 ft) and some measuring 12 x 2.5 m (40 x 8 ft), to transform an existing brick-built orphanage at Gauteng, South Africa.

Useful Links

More examples can be found in this link – http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/shipping-container-homes-460309#slide-1

ISO 6346

ISO 6346 is an international standard covering the coding, identification and marking of shipping containers

Bureau International des Containers (BIC)