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Shipping Containers: Lifeline of the Shipping Industry

Lying in the bed under an air conditioner, relaxing, chilling with a can of Coke in your hand and CR7 on the screen. Life seems so cool, doesn’t it? Ever thought whom to thank for bringing all of these luxuries to you. No, not your mum, not your dad, not even the shopkeeper. It’s one and only the shipping container which deserves all the credit. Yes, the shipping containers, the heart of the shipping industry, the cheapest and the most economical method of transportation. So why not let’s all take out sometime and know the alpha, beta and gamma about the shipping container which is the backbone of the transportation of nearly each and everything you see around yourself.

What Is A Shipping Container?

A shipping container is nothing but a 20 and 40 feet long cuboidal room like big metallic box. These are not ordinary boxes but very rigid and tough with very high withstanding capability suitable for proper storage, handling and shipment of goods and commodities. A shipping container is basically designed for the movement of commodities from a specific mode of transport to another without any need of unloading and reloading.


Shipping containers can be basically categorized into 16 types)

1) Dry Storage Containers:

  • Dry storage containers are used in the industry, i.e. they are the most commonly used shipping containers. Their dimensions are standardized by the ISO.
  • Generally used for transportation of dry materials.
  • Size: 20ft, 40ft, 10ft.
  • Uses: Coal, iron, cement, salt, sugar, etc..

2)  Flat Rack Containers:

  • Simple shipping storage containers with foldable or collapsible sides so as to make a flat rack for shipping of a wide range of items.
  • Uses: Machineries, pipes, timber, steel, etc.

3) Open Top Containers:

  • Are shipping container fixed with the convertible top which can be removed completely so as to make the shipping of heighted cargo easy.
  • Uses: Logs, machinery, odd sized items, etc.

4) Tunnel Containers:

  • Tunnel containers are provided doors at both ends. These containers are extremely helpful in quick loading and unloading of goods.
  • Uses: Steel, iron, etc..

5) Open Site Storage Containers:

  • These containers are provided with doors which can completely open on the sides to provide more space for the materials to get loaded.
  • Uses: Vegetables (potatoes, onions, etc.)

6) Double Doored Containers:

  • Similar to open site storage containers with even wider space for the materials to get loaded and unloaded.
  • Uses: pulses, grains, etc.

7) Refrigerated ISO Containers:

  • Shipping containers with carefully regulated and controlled low temperatures.
  • Uses: Dairy products, meat, poultry, seafood, medicines, etc.

8) Thermal Insulated Containers:

  • Likewise, ISO containers these are also temperature regulated containers to withstand a higher temperature.
  • Uses: Food items, blood organs, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and biological material.

9) Tanks:

  • Used mostly for shifting of fluid products. These containers are used by a huge proportion of the shipping industry.
  • Uses: chemical products, liquefied gases, motor oil, etc.

10) Cargo Storage Roll Containers:

  • Specialized foldable containers made for the purpose of transporting sets or stacks of material.
  • Uses: Toys, television, DVDs, clothing, etc.

11) Half Height Containers:

  • Another type of shipping containers made specially for goods like coal, stones, etc which require easy loading and unloading.

12) Car Carriers:

  • Special storage units manufactured specially for transporting cars over long distances.
  • Day too come with foldable size which helps the car to fit inside without getting damaged.

13) Intermediate Bulk Shift Containers:

  • Specialized storage shipping career made specifically for the purpose of intermediate shipping of goods.
  • Uses: Bulk material (hazardous goods), raw material (industrial production) petrochemicals, etc.

14) Drums:

  • Specialized cylindrical containers manufactured for the bulk transport of liquid materials.

15) Specialized Purpose Containers:

  • No ordinary container. Units custom made for specialized purposes.
  • Uses: mostly used for high profile services such as shipping off weapons and arson.

16) Swap Bodies:

  • Special containers used basically in Europe.
  • Not standardized shipping containers but very useful at the same time. Suitable for shipping of many types of products.


Manufacturing and production cost of the containers mainly differ based on the requirement, condition and the size of the container required. It also varies from production company to company. A brand new 20 feet shipping container can cost you more about 2500 to 3000 USD while a used 20 feet container would cost around 1500 USD. More than 90% of the shipping containers are produced and manufactured in China.


One of the frequently question asked “How long do shipping containers last?” Some people say they last only 20 years or something but it’s pretty ridiculous because whether a shipping container will last only a certain time period or not is all based on maintenance. Without periodic painting and oiling the life of shipping container will go down drastically.

It should always be noted that if shipping industry is the crown of the transportation industry then the shipping container is the jewel in the crown…..

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