shipping container

Shipping containers are large metal boxes used to carry cargo during transit. They are most commonly seen in shipping at sea, but can also be found on trains and roads. They are extremely durable, made of eco-friendly materials, and can be stacked on top of each other. They are the backbone of long supply chains, moving goods from the factories that make them to the stores and end users.

Shipping companies move approximately 90% of overseas non-bulk freight through containerization. The containerization of shipping and intermodal transport has allowed for increased efficiency and speed in the global economy.

Before shipping containers, freight moved as break-bulk cargo, in odd sized wooden cases that had to be loaded and unloaded each time it was transferred from one mode of transportation to another (truck to train to ship). These multiple steps slowed down the delivery process and inflated costs and increased the risk of damage, pilferage, and loss of cargo.

When the shipping industry adopted the standardization of shipping containers, it dramatically reduced these costs and risks. The new containers could be stacked on top of each other for increased loading density and sped up the transport time. They were also a safe and secure way to move cargo, as they are closed and lockable. This helped to reduce the risk of theft and smuggling, and it improved security by ensuring that the contents are not tampered with until they reach their destination.

In addition to the general purpose shipping containers, there are a number of specialty containers designed for specific uses. These include refrigerated containers, tank in frame containers, flat-racks for oversized and oddly shaped cargo, and more. These are generally only available from specialized container providers or through leasing programs with those companies that specialize in them.

A standard shipping container is typically 20 or 40 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8.5 feet tall. It has smooth or corrugated sides and a door at each end. The doors can be opened and locked with a combination lock or a padlock. They are often painted a bright color to make them easier to spot at sea or on rail yards. They are numbered using a system that starts with a 4 letter prefix (nearly always ending in a U) followed by a 6 digit serial number and a check digit based on a mathematical formula.

The most common container is the ISO standard. There are a few other variations as well, such as the insulated containers for chilled or frozen goods and the high-cube shipping container that is larger and allows for more cargo to be loaded in it.

Generally speaking, the cost of shipping a container depends on its size and how far it needs to travel. The bigger the container and the farther it needs to go, the higher the price will be. The pricing is determined by a set of rules known as incoterms. The rules set out the responsibilities of the consignee (shipper/ buyer) and the consignor (carrier/ seller). The most important part of incoterms is that they establish clear payment terms for the shipment of goods. This helps to reduce misunderstandings and disputes over payment.

Sipho Dladla
Author: Sipho Dladla