About Shipping Containers

Shipping containers are the most integral part of a highly automated system for moving goods from one part of the world to another. An American trucker named Malcolm McLean invented and patented in 1956 what we now know as the Shipping Container.

The strong uniform design was built for intermodal freight transport. Intermodal meaning it can be used with different modes of transport– from ship to rail to truck – without unloading and reloading. This fantastic idea made shipping cheap and changed the shape of the world economy.

It has also led to millions of intermodal shipping containers existing globally. Of those, less than half are being used for transport. That means there are millions of these containers unused sitting waiting for someone to use them. The fact there are so many is the reason they are so affordable.

A Container by Any Other Name

In addition to shipping containers, storage containers or intermodal containers, you will hear them called ISO containers, high-cube containers, Conex boxes or sea cans. They’re all a standardized unit manufactured according to specifications by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Types of Shipping Containers

Made from industrial-grade steel, there are several types including dry, refrigerated (reefer), insulated, tank, open-top, and flat rack. They come in different lengths, the most common sizes are 20 feet and 40 and the 40 High Cube, which is one foot taller than a standard 40’ container. Also 45-foot containers are available.

See Shipping Container Specifications.

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