Knowbase - The types of containers for shipping by sea


Secure transportation of all types of cargo is carried out by the sea. With the help of containers the equipment is standardized and may be used multiple times. Their sizes, carrying capacity and other significant characteristics are regulated by the international standard ISO 668. Steel is the main material for container manufacturing. It provides a proper strength of the walls and the roof of the container. Cargo is protected from getting wet and dusted. The standard sizes make unloading and loading works easier, allowing the usage of special equipment. The ability to change the mode of transportation (railway, vehicles) without transshipment of contents reduces costs on cargo shipment.

The sizes of sea containers

According to the international agreement external, minimal internal dimensions and weight of containers are unified. The length of a device is considered to be the main characteristic. It is indicated in feet. The given length standard divides the means of transportation into four groups:




10 feet

1DX, 1D

2991 mm

20 feet

1CC, 1CX, 1C

6058 mm

30 feet

1B, 1BBB, 1BB

9125 mm

40 feet

1AX, 1A, 1AA, 1AAA

12192 mm

The length of 20-feet model has been taken as the basis for calculating the parameters of different types of sea containers. This means that when loading a 40-feet container it takes the place of two 20-feet ones, and 10-feet one – the half of space needed. External parameters of the width of all containers got a unified size 2438 mm, the standard height of 20-feet and 40-feet containers – 2591 mm.

The dimensions of containers for sea shipment

The dimensions of the container model depend on a manufacturing company and container’s designation. They allow to increase or decrease in size from the figures, offered in the standards. When selecting containers for your product, it is worth allowing a small margin of length and carrying capacity. Only the carrier can indicate the exact dimensions of the containers used. Getting in touch with the consultant of the company “Intervid”, you will receive all the necessary information and calculations.

The size of the door is 7-10 mm smaller than the overall dimensions in height and width, this is taken into account when planning transportation of the cargo within the loading range. In special containers the difference of dimensions increases up to 20 cm. 20-feet containers are specially designed for general cargo transportation. The piece-goods including large units, and small cargo packed in boxes are transported in them. Carrying capacity of the container is 22 tons, volume 33 cubic meters. The same product range is transported in 40-feet models, but their maximum weight may reach up to 26,5 tons, and capacity up to 67, 5 cubic meters. The transported cargoes do not require ventilation and temperature maintenance.

The main types of maritime containers

The standard ISO 6346:1995 introduces special designation for easy and clear identification of maritime containers and their conventional abbreviations of two Latin letters:

    – GP – multipurpose standard containers of 20 and 40 feet made for piece cargo. Their varieties are:

    – HTC – reinforced steel construction designed for heavy cargo transportation.

    – HQ – the container, the  height of which is 1 feet bigger than the standard one and reaches 2700 mm.

    – PW – the multipurpose tare with enlarged width (2420-2450 mm), which allows to have the pallets with goods installed in two rows.

    – OT and UT – the specialized containers with the removable top. The roof of the device is made of tarpaulin or awning. Container is designed for vertical placement of oversized cargo, which is impossible to be loaded through the door. HT version with the removable metal roof is available.

    – RT, RE, RS – are refrigerators, which maintain the inside temperature in the range from -25 to +25 degrees. The container used for cargoes, which are not sensitive to temperature fluctuations: medicine, vegetables and fruits, meat and fish, chemicals. Cooling works from the power supply of the ship or from a diesel generator.

    – FR – steel platform with end walls is used for transportation of overall equipment and machinery. The construction can be 20-40 feet. The maximum allowable weight varies, it should be preliminarily checked with the company.

    – VT, TC – the container is equipped with artificial and natural ventilation, which contributes to the removal of condensate and non-hazardous fumes.

    – BU, BC – the special tare with holes for loading and unloading bulk cargoes.

    – TC – tank fixed on a rigid twenty foot frame. It is designed for transportation of bulk cargo. The tanks are equipped with thermal insulation and heating, they are effectively used during winter and summer. Oils and butters, juices, dairy products, oil and chemical substances are transported in tanks. Using a tank optimizes multimodal transportation of liquid food and chemical products. An alternative of this model is a flexitank – a polymer tank, installed inside a 20-feet container. It is quickly filled and emptied, does not require sending back, so the container is disposable.

    – SN is a special container model created for transportation of livestock and live fish.

The types and sizes of tank-containers 

Emergence of special tanks that do not require intermediate overflow when changing the mode of transportation has gradually cut the delivery costs and increased the safety and security of transported substance. A tank has a standard size and is easily reloaded when changing a vehicle. Chemical substances, liquid food products and liquefied gas are transported in cisterns.

TC devices are sized

    IMO 0 – for bulk food cargo (juices, alcohol, mineral water), capacity of 20-30 thousand liters, walls are 2 mm thick.

    IMO 1 – used for liquid chemical substances, capacity – 14-30 thousand liters, pressure up to 6 atmospheres, cistern walls are 4-7 mm thick.

    IMO 2 – used for transportation of dangerous and concentrated liquids, capasity 21-30 thousand liters, walls are 3-4 mm thick, operating pressure up to 3 atmospheres.

    IMO 5 – tank-container for transportation of liquefied gas, tank characteristics depend on substance type, pressure up to 7 atmospheres.

A common twenty-feet tank holds 14-26 thousand liters, swap-containers are used for bigger volume. Additionally, tank models are equipped with thermal insulation, steam heating, internal acid coating, ladder, thermometer. The modern classification of TC uses T-code with numbers from 1 to 75.

The container marking

The information about cargo, an owner, the container size are applied on visible sides of the container – doors, sidewalls. The marking standards are registered in ISO 6346:1995 and are strictly observed. The code is applied by combination of letter and number symbols. The marking appliance allows to perform in automatic control and effectively manage cargo transportation.

The rules of the container selection

The container parameters are selected taking into account the following factors:

   The length and weight of cargo;

  The  way of packing;

  The list of requirements for transportation conditions



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