An intermodal container, is a large standardized shipping container, designed and built for intermodal freight transport, meaning these containers can be used across different modes of transport – from ship to rail to truck – without unloading and reloading their cargo. Intermodal containers are primarily used to store and transport materials and products efficiently and securely in the global containerized intermodal freight transport system, but smaller numbers are in regional use as well. These containers are known under a number of names, such as simply container, cargo or freight container, ISO container, shipping, sea or ocean container, sea van or (Conex) box, container van, sea can or c can.
Intermodal containers exist in many types and a number of standardized sizes, but ninety percent of the global container fleet are so-called “dry freight” or “general purpose” containers, durable closed steel boxes, mostly 8 feet (2.4 m) wide and of either 20 or 40 feet (6.1 or 12.2 m) standard length. The common heights are 8 feet 6 inches (2.6 m) and 9 feet 6 inches (2.9 m) – the latter are known as High Cube or Hi-Cube containers.
Ocean cargo containers are held to a rigid standard to ensure that there are no issues during shipping. Each intermodal shipping container (sometimes called “conex” containers) must be able to not only stack perfectly on a cargo ship, but also lock into chassis trailers safely and securely stack on rail cars. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) sets the standards for shipping container dimensions (via ISO 668).
PLEASE NOTE: Dimensions may vary slightly, based on manufacturer. But these numbers should be very close.
Intermodal Container Dimensions:
Shipping Container Markings
The information listed on intermodal shipping container doors is standardized so that the container can be handled at any port in the world. From the manufacturer information on the CSC plate, to the size & capacity information, to the container identification number, everything is standardized on a shipping container. Furthermore, to ensure the same equipment can safely handle the containers anywhere in the world, shipping containers are held to a very specific set of specifications and dimensions.
Safe Handling Instructions
A sticker or plate to identify such things as High Cube containers, hazardous cargo, or other such labels. High Cube shipping containers will also have yellow decals at the top of the frame on each end, to make the extended height more noticeable. High Cube containers have an outside height of 9’6″ (one foot taller than standard shipping containers, which are 8’6″ tall).
The Convention for Safe Containers (CSC) Plate includes information on the date and location of manufacture, as well as other specifications. Learn more about the Convention for Safe Containers on the International Maritime Organization’s website. And make sure to purchases CSC survey if you need to use your shipping container for export.
Locking Rods & Handles
Locking rods are bolted to the exterior of the shipping container cargo doors and frame, that seal the door tightly when twisted closed and clasped. A broken or bent locking rod can mean that a door won’t seal properly.
Container Identification Number
Each shipping container has a unique identification number. The first three letters represent the container owner (registered with the Bureau International des Containers “BIC”), and those are followed by a “U” for dry containers, and then six more numerical digits for the unit number. The 7th number is a “check digit” used by calculating the value of each letter and number in the ID. Check your check digit with BIC.
Size and Capacity Specifications
To ensure safe handling, and stacking on ships, containers should not be loaded heavier than the weight specifications listed on the door and CSC plate. Please note, however, that local shipping weight regulations may be much lower than the maximum payload of the container. For instance, many shipping containers can handle over 65,000 lbs of cargo, but loading them that heavy would exceed FMCSA regulations.
Rubber Door Gasket
Each of the shipping container cargo doors is fully surrounded by a rubber gasket. The gasket allows the steel doors to be shut tightly to prevent both weather getting into the the container. It also helps keep cargo from spilling out if the freight shifts or pallets fail during transport. Good gaskets are essential to a cargo container being wind/water tight.