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Facts about Shipping containers

Shipping containers have affected our daily lives for many years, but what do you really know about them? This article will help you out with a some facts about shipping containers.  Shipping containers carry a large percentage of the goods that impact our daily lives, and many people work with them (both directly and indirectly) in business. Since many people don’t think about containers on a regular basis, we thought you might like to hear a few facts about shipping containers.


Here at Billie Box we sell shipping containers and rent shipping containers.


1. The inventor of the shipping container  was Keith Tantlinger (1919-2011) (chief engineer at Brown Industries). In 1949 he designed what was probably the first modern shipping container, a 30ft Aluminium box that could be stacked 2 high on barges operating between Seattle and Alaska. Everybody was interested in this concept but unfortunately nobody wanted to spend the money to get this idea off the ground. Source: The Box by Marc Levinson

2. Malcolm McLean (1913-2001) a very well respected Truck magnate since March 1934. McLean enlisted Tantlinger’s help to get advice on the shipping container idea. There was much discussion in working out what size container could be loaded in a hold of a ship, to get the maximum amount of cargo shipped in the most economical way. In the 1950’s McLean adapted the long-used transportation formula whose birth dates back to the early twentieth century. The metal shipping container (intermodal container), that we know today, replaced the old style “break bulk” method of goods handling.  Containerisation was born. McClean understood that reducing the cost of shipping goods required not just a metal box but an entire new way of handling freight. This meant that every part of the shipping system had to change-that included: ports, ships, cranes, storage facilities, trucks, trains and the operations of the shippers themselves. He was years ahead of his time. Source: The Box by Marc Levinson

2. The standard container sizes are 20ft long or 40ft long. Although the 20ft units are referred to as 20ft long the actual size is 19ft 10.5in long and the 40ft is 40ft long! The standard widths are 8ft and the heights can be either 8ft 6in or 9ft 6in. The 9ft 6in high units are known as Hi cubes.

3. In 2012 over 20 million shipping containers in the world, and five or six million of them are shipping around the world on vessels, trucks, and trains. In total, they make approximately 200 million trips a year.

4. It’s estimated that there are 10,000 shipping containers lost at sea (includes catastrophic events) every year. That’s almost 192 container every day! Source: Singularity Hub.  Lost containers can be damaged by waves and sink (a 20ft can take up to 57 days and a 40ft will take three times as long, to sink). The ones that don’t sink, often float just below the surface which can cause a lot of damage to other sailing vessels.

5. Approximately 97% of all shipping containers are manufactured in China. This is due to the fact the Chinese labour rate is lower than many other countries and that much of the world’s products are produced in China. It is far easier to produce the container close to the shipment, than to re-position containers around the world. China manufacture approx. 5.8 million TEU (20ft equivalent) per annum. Source: Wikipedia

6. Shanghai, China was the busiest container port in the world in 2018. 42 million (TEU=equivalent to a 20ft container) containers passed through the port in 2018. Source: World Shipping council.

7. The Port of Felixstowe handled 3.85 million 20ft equivalent containers during 2018. Felixstowe handles the largest containerised traffic in the UK and handles 37% of the UK’s container units. Source: UK Department of Trade

8. According to the International Chamber of Shipping, there are more than 50,000 merchant ships operating in the oceans in 2019. The ‘OOCL Hong Kong’ was recorded the largest cargo ship in the world in 2019. The ‘OOCL Hong Kong’ is owned by OOCL and is a length of 400 meters long by 58.8 meters wide by 32.5 meters depth and holds the equivalent of 21,413 TEU (TEU=20ft equivalent). The OOCL Hong Kong visited Felixstowe in June 2017.

shipping container ship OOCL Hong Kong

9. All commercially used shipping containers have a serial number which is made up of a 4 letter prefix (nearly always ending with a U and a seven digit number [XXX-U-123456-1]. The first three letters signify the owner, the next letter is the category of the container (U = unit freight container), followed by a six digit serial number and finally a check digit. There is a mathematical formula that works out the check digit (final number).

10. Shipping containers can last over 25 years! Provided they are taken care of with regular paint and maintenance. See our Container care page.

11. A standard 20′ shipping container can hold 1,170 cubic feet and the max gross weight is 30T with a tare weight of 2.2T. A 40′ high cube contains 2,700 cubic feet and the max gross weight is 32.5T with a tare weight of 3.8T.

12. Liner ships transport approximately 60 percent of the value of seaborne trade or more than US $4 trillion worth of goods annually. Source: World Shipping council. It still makes financial sense to transport goods in high volume via sea/ocean.

13. All shipping containers have a CSC plate affixed, which acts like a passport for a container. HSE have more information

14. In 2020/21 there became a Worldwide shortage, due to the pandemic firstly and then the massive knock on effect. Please click here for more information.

Shipping container dimensions

Container Dimensions

Container Dimensions       
Size/Type of container10ft store20ft store40ft store20ft Tunnel20ft Opensider20ft High cube40ft High cube
External dimensions
Length
Width
Height
3.05 m (9ft 10in)
2.43 m (8ft)
2.59 m (8ft 6in)
6.04 m (19ft 10in)
2.43 m (8ft)
2.59 m (8ft 6in)
12.19 m (40ft)
2.43 m (8ft)
2.59 m (8ft 6in)
6.04 m (19ft 10 in)
2.43 m (8ft)
2.59 m (8ft 6in)
6.04 m (19ft 10 in)
2.43 m (8ft)
2.59 m (8ft 6in)
6.04 m (19ft 10in)
2.43 m (8ft)
2.89 m (9ft 6in)
12.19 m (40ft)
2.43 m (8ft)
2.89 m (9ft 6in)
Internal dimensions
Length
Width
Height
2.84 m (9ft 4in)
2.33 m (7ft 8in)
2.38 m (7ft 10in)
5.89 m (19ft 4in)
2.33 m (7ft 8in)
2.38 m (7ft 10in)
12.04 m (39ft 6in)
2.33 m (7ft 8in)
2.38 m (7ft 10in)
5.81 m (19ft 1in)
2.33 m (7ft 8in)
2.38 m (7ft 10in)
5.89 m (19ft 4in)
2.33 m (7ft 8in)
2.39 m (7ft 10in)
5.89 m (19ft 4in)
2.33 m (7ft 8in)
2.69 m (8ft 10in)
12.04 m (39ft 6in)
2.33 m (7ft 8in)
2.69 m (8ft 10in)
Door Dimensions
Width
Height
Side door opening width
2.28 m (7ft 6in)
2.28 m (7ft 6in)
N/A
2.28 m (7ft 6in)
2.28 m (7ft 6in)
N/A
2.28 m (7ft 6in)
2.28 m (7ft 6in)
N/A
2.28 m (7ft 6in)
2.28 m (7ft 6in)
N/A
2.28 m (7ft 6in)
2.28 m (7ft 6in)
5.74 m (18ft 10in)
2.28 m (7ft 6in)
2.59 m (8ft 6in)
N/A
2.28 m (7ft 6in)
2.59 m (8ft 6in)
N/A
Cubic Capacity
Max Gross Weight
Tare Weight
15.95 cm (561 cf)
10,160 Kg (22,400 lbs)
1,300 Kg (2,870 lbs)
33.1 cm (1,170 cf)
30,480 Kg (67,200 lbs)
2,230 Kg (4,920 lbs)
67.6 cm (2,386 cf)
32,500 Kg (71,650 lbs)
3,700 Kg (8,168 lbs)
32 cm (1,130 cf) 32 cm (1,130 cf)
24,000 Kg (52,910 lbs) 30,480 Kg (52,910 lbs)
2,340 Kg (5,158 lbs) 3,170 Kg (5,158 lbs)
37.09 cm (1,310 cf)
30,480 Kg (67,200 lbs)
2,220 Kg (4,894 lbs)
76.2 cm (2,700 cf)
32,500 Kg (71,650 lbs)
3,880 Kg (8,553 lbs)

Do you have a secure storage problem? If so, then call us today for a quote: 0800 121 7388 or complete our enquiry form here.

 

About Jane Billing
Jane Billing has over 35 years in shipping container supply. During that time Jane has earned a very broad knowledge of the whole shipping container industry. From construction, to shipping and conversions, if you have a question about any aspect of the shipping container industry Jane will likely have the answer for you. After many years working for some of the biggest names in the shipping container industry Jane set up her own company, Billie Box Ltd in 2012. Since launching in 2012 Billie Box Ltd has sold well over 3000 new and used containers.

More facts about shipping containers and FAQs
How wide is a shipping container

Shipping containers are available in a range of widths. View all of the shipping container dimensions we have available at Billie Box.

How are shipping containers tracked

Shipping containers are track by unique serial numbers. Every shipping container in the world has as unique serial number assigned to it.

What is the inside dimensions of a shipping container

The inside dimensions of a shipping container naturally depend on its height and width. You can find the inside dimensions of our shipping containers on our shipping container dimensions page.

How many containers does a ship carry

While this question will entirely depend on the size of the vessel, but it is possible for up to 20,000 containers to cross the sea on a single ship!

How big is a shipping container

Shipping containers vary in size, so be sure to select the correct measurements by taking a look at our shipping container dimensions guide.

How to lift a shipping container

Shipping containers can be lifted in a variety of ways. From container lifting jacks to straddle carriers, forklifts and sideloaders, there are plenty of options. When you hire or purchase a shipping container from Billie Box, we will take care of this process for you.

What is a Shipping container?

It is either a 20ft or 40ft corten steel box fitted with wooden floor, one set of double doors, used for transporting goods via sea all over the world. See our article: Facts about Shipping containers We do offer 8ft and 10ft containers that are built in the same way as a 20ft and 40ft, but they are mainly built for the storage market and not for shipping.

Do containers fall off ships?

While rare, shipping containers do occasionally fall off ships. This typically happens when a natural event like a storm occurs at sea. Research by the World Shipping Council revealed that an average of 568 containers were lost at sea each year between 2008-2016.

How high is a shipping container

Because shipping containers are used for a variety of reasons, there are taller and smaller versions available for hire and purchase. You can view the height of all of the shipping containers available with Billie Box on our dimensions page.

How many cubic metres in a 20 foot shipping container

A 20 foot shipping container has a total capacity of 33 cubic metres.

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