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What is a Shipping Container?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated May 17, 2024
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A shipping container is a type of storage box used to load heavy equipment and dry goods for shipping purposes. Made out of steel, it is usually 20 or 40 feet (about 6 or 12 meters) long and 8.5 feet (2.6 meters) high, with a pair of doors at one end and a wooden floor. This type of container is the most inexpensive way of importing and exporting products in and out of the country.

The shipping container is said to be the brainchild of Malcom McLean. McLean invented it in order to replace the break bulk method, the method of shipping and handling dry goods circa 1930. Today, tis container is used throughout the world.

There are several types of shipping containers available, with each built to serve specific needs. The Basic Unit is the most popular type, made with four walls and two doors. The open top also has four walls and two doors, but it does not have a lid. This model is widely used for moving tall objects.

There is also a type of shipping container that resembles a refrigerator. The refrigerated version is specifically used for transporting food. Tanker containers, which may or may not be refrigerated, are built for moving around liquids. For transporting items such as a yacht, the flat rack is used.

A corrugated shipping container makes use of linerboard, fluted paper placed between the liners that faces the object being transported. The flutes measure the strength of the container. They are usually available in B, C, and E flutes as well as Double Wall. The size, weight, and fragility of the product to be shipped determine the type of corrugation necessary.

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Discussion Comments

By anon354142 — On Nov 05, 2013

Is a shipping container considered part of a motor vehicle?

By anon350397 — On Oct 04, 2013

Thanks for all the great advice. I guess I need to find some shipping crates and this is really useful.

By Dakait — On Sep 04, 2009

What is the capacity of genset used for reefer 40 feet container?

By anon41434 — On Aug 14, 2009

a 20 foot container is a standard container.

there is even 40 foot and 45 and 53 foot containers and then we have the high cube. they are all off the above except the 20 foot.

By anon18605 — On Sep 26, 2008

what is a 20'GP box?

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