Shipping container

I’ve been reading most of the evening about the Shipping (or Intermodal) containers. There are several very well written wiki pages on this topic, full of very interesting information starting with the Containerization history and going through the ISO Container itself all the way to the Emma Maersk. So FYI I’ll be quoting number of those in this article, just because I wouldn’t be able to write it better – all credits to the for this amazing source of knowledge.

20ft Containers For Sale Brisbane | Gateway Container Sales

Well, why containers? As per Wikipedia:

Before containerization, goods were usually handled manually as break bulk cargo. Typically, goods would be loaded onto a vehicle from the factory and taken to a port warehouse where they would be offloaded and stored awaiting the next vessel. When the vessel arrived, they would be moved to the side of the ship along with other cargo to be lowered or carried into the hold and packed by dock workers. The ship might call at several other ports before off-loading a given consignment of cargo. Each port visit would delay the delivery of other cargo. Delivered cargo might then have been offloaded into another warehouse before being picked up and delivered to its destination. Multiple handling and delays made transport costly, time consuming and unreliable.


There were multiple container systems developed through the history, but its golden age haven’t came until after World War II, when it dramatically reduced the costs of transport, supported the post-war boom in international trade, and was a major element in globalization.

Today (2020), 90% of non-bulk global cargo is moved by containers stacked on transport ships, where 26% of all container transshipment is carried out in China.

Emma Mærsk2.jpg

There were plenty sizes and many of them had some pretty funny reasoning like the “New 35 ft (10.67 m) x 8 ft (2.44 m) x 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m) Sea-Land container”, which had its length determined by the maximum length of trailers then allowed on Pennsylvanian highways. Today there are five common standard lengths:

20 ft (6.10 m)
40 ft (12.19 m)
45 ft (13.72 m)
48 ft (14.63 m)
53 ft (16.15 m)

20 and 40 ft are the most common, while the larger ones are mostly dedicated to the US market.

Values apparently vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer, but must stay within the tolerances dictated by the standards (ISO 668:2013). Empty weight (tare weight) is not determined by the standards, but by the container’s construction, and is therefore indicative, but necessary to calculate a net load figure, by subtracting it from the maximum permitted gross weight.


So the 20 ft container comes with following values:

  • Length: 19 ft 10.5 in (6.058 m)
  • Width: 8 ft 0 in (2.438 m)
  • Height: 8 ft 6 in (2.591 m)
  • Internal volume 1,169 cu ft (33.1 m3)
  • Maximum gross weight: 66,139 lb (30,000 kg)
  • Empty weight: 4,850 lb (2,200 kg)

The 40 ft container comes with following values, which are practically a double of that 20 ft, except the Maximum gross weight, which quite surprisingly remains the same:

  • Length: 40 ft 0 in (12.192 m)
  • Width: 8 ft 0 in (2.438 m)
  • Height: 8 ft 6 in (2.591 m)
  • Internal volume 2,385 cu ft (67.5 m3)
  • Maximum gross weight: 66,139 lb (30,000 kg)
  • Empty weight: 8,380 lb (3,800 kg)
Harbor Crane Lifting A Sea Container Into A Cargo Ship Stock Photo, Picture  And Royalty Free Image. Image 27576849.

Now you might be bit confused why I made you to read all that above, but I actually don’t think you are. Still, let’s let it hanging in the air and watch some super-amazing video on how Shipping container Gantry Cranes work at Dublin.

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