Container specification made simple: understanding the basics of shipping containers

Container specification made simple: understanding the basics of shipping containers

Shipping containers have become essential to the global economy, enabling goods to be shipped worldwide quickly and efficiently. As such, those in this industry must understand the basics of shipping container specifications.

This article provides a comprehensive overview of what one needs to know about container specifications, including their size, type, materials, and more. By understanding these critical features of each specification, those handling shipping containers can ensure they are using them correctly and legally. In addition, this knowledge will help shippers make decisions regarding which kind of container they should use for any given shipment.


Size is an actual container specification when deciding on containers. The two main sizes are 20-foot and 40-foot. These designations refer to the length of the container, measured in feet from end to end. A 20-foot container can hold up to 33 cubic meters of cargo, while a 40-foot container can hold 66 cubic meters. The height and width of the containers also vary depending on the type, with standard containers typically being 8ft high and 8ft wide.

Specialized containers may have more significant specifications than these standards. Stacking containers of different sizes together for easy storage and transport is also possible. It’s essential to check the exact size of the container before use, as this will determine how much cargo can be shipped in it.


Several different types of shipping containers are available for use, each designed for specific purposes. Container specifications will vary between types, and it’s crucial to select the correct one for the job at hand. The two most common types are dry cargo containers and refrigerated containers. Dry cargo containers are designed to transport goods such as food, furniture, clothing, machinery, and other non-perishable items. Refrigerated containers ship perishable items that require temperature control during transit. Other specialized container types include:

  • Open-top containers with no roof or sides can be loaded with large objects from the top.
  • Flat rack units for shipping bulky objects such as cars or machines.
  • Insulated units that keep goods at a constant temperature throughout their journey.

It’s essential to ensure that the correct type of container is used for the intended cargo.


The materials used to make a shipping container vary depending on its purpose. Most standard boxes are constructed of corrugated steel, which is solid and lightweight. Refrigerated containers are made from insulated panels with high-strength aluminum framing to maintain the temperature throughout transit.

Specialized containers may have different construction materials, depending on their design. For example, flat racks are usually made of wood or heavy-duty steel, while open-top boxes may also be constructed from aluminum or even plastic. It’s essential to check that the container material is suitable for its intended use before loading it with cargo. It would be best if you also considered the weight of the container to ensure that it has to be lifted safely.


The weight capacity of a shipping container plays an essential role when deciding which ones will be used for any shipment. Containers vary widely in their maximum weight capacity, depending on the type and size of the container. Most standard 20-foot containers can hold up to 30 tons of cargo, while 40-foot containers can typically hold up to 60 tons.

Refrigerated and specialized containers may have lower weight capacities than this due to insulation or other additional features. It’s essential to check the weight capacity before loading a container, as exceeding it could cause safety problems when moving or stacking them. It is also essential to consider the container’s weight when calculating the total weight capacity.


The doors are essential to any shipping container, ensuring that cargo is safely loaded and unloaded from the box. Standard containers have two opposite-facing swing doors at one end of the unit, allowing for efficient packaging and unloading. Some boxes have sliding doors that can be opened from either end, making them easier to access when necessary.

Refrigerated containers also have insulated doors designed to maintain the temperature of the cargo inside. Specialized containers may have different types of doors or no doors at all, depending on their specific design and purpose. It’s essential to consider what type of door is best suited for any shipment before deciding which container to use.


The construction of a shipping container is an essential factor to consider for any shipment. Standard containers are made from corrugated steel and feature sturdy walls, floors, roofs, and doors. Specialized containers may have different types of construction materials depending on their purpose.

Open-top containers, for example, usually have metal or plastic sides but no roof. Flat racks are typically constructed from heavy-duty steel or wood to ensure that large objects can safely transport without risk of damage. It’s essential to check the construction material before loading a container with cargo to ensure it will provide the necessary protection during transit.

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