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    Types Of Containers And Their Uses
    Updated On: 19 Apr 2021 | 3,583 Views

    Types Of Containers And Their Uses

    Types Of Containers And Their Uses

    Types Of Containers And Their Uses

    There are different types of containers and each has its different specialized uses. It is important to know the differences to instruct your manufacturer/supplier on the most appropriate type to best fit the nature of your goods, weight and other properties of the goods. This will minimize loss of goods and/or spoilage of goods while in transit.


    Listed below are the most common types of containers used in shipping:


    Description: These shipping containers are fully covered, made from corten steel that protects the inner space from the elements. It has a rigid roof, sidewalls and floor. This type of container is used to load most types of general and normal goods.

     Container General Purpose

    This is also called “Dry Container” because they are used for shipping a variety of dry materials. It is the most commonly used container. It comes in 3 dimensions standardized by ISO (International Organization for Standardization); 20ft, 40ft and the less common 10ft. The 10ft container is not used for shipping but it is most commonly used as a shed or for storage. 



    Description: This simple storage container has collapsible sides that can be folded to make a flat rack. The containers have sides only on the short ends of the containers. No need to worry about securing your load, the numerous lashing rings on the two short ends are strong enough to safely secure items while in transit.

    flat rack containers

    They are ideal for shipping heavy goods that require loading from the top or through the sides. Cargo such as pipes, busses and oversized materials, such as heavy machinery, vehicles on tracks, big reels and construction materials. 

    Modern generation 40ft flat rack shipping containers are suitable to carry as much as 40-50 metric tons of cargo.

    There are different sizes of flat rack containers and two different types: 

    • A collapsible flat rack has sides that can be collapsed

    • Fixed-end flat racks can be shipped and have a greater top load as they are often stronger in construction.


    Description: As the name suggests, it is a container with a convertible top made of tarpaulin sheets so the container can either be covered or left open while in transit. It can carry a load of 30 tonnes (30,000  KG). They have lashing rings installed to secure cargo. These containers are available in both 20ft and 40ft container dimensions.

    This type of container is most suitable for tricky and bulky oversized/overheight cargo that cannot be easily loaded through the doors. Types of cargo that are loaded include tall machinery, pipes or other heavy finished products whose handling and loading can only be performed with a crane or rolling bridge. The containers are usually difficult to obtain because there are only a few in circulation and it is also expensive to use because other containers cannot be stacked on top of it.



    Description: This type of containers are identical to the general-purpose containers but instead has doors of equal dimensions at both the short ends of the container. This type of container is also known as tunnel containers because a lot of times, they are used to create a safe passage on construction sites. They are available in 20ft and 40ft dimensions.  

    Container Double Door

    Double door containers are extremely useful for quickly loading and unloading goods. and they make an even wider room for goods such as steel and iron. For example, a car loaded can just drive through and doesn’t have to be reversed. 

    Double door containers are used in loading all types of general dry goods and are generally useful when shipping automobiles such as motorbikes, cars and other bulky containers. Both sets of doors have the same locking assembling and weather tight seals to keep cargo protected from the elements and this ensures the safety of goods during transit.



    Description: These containers are almost identical to the general-purpose containers. They are similar in length and width but with an additional height of 1 foot, so they have a height of 9’6” (Nine feet, six inches). 

    Container High Cube

    Because of the extra height on top of the HC container, it looks like a cube when viewed from the front and the back; hence the name High-cube. They are sometimes called HC, HQ, or Hi-Cube. They come in dimensions of 40ft and 45ft and rarely 20ft HC. The HC containers are designed to accommodate more volume capacity to meet higher cargo demands. It is important to note that given the height, HC containers are usually considered over heightened for inland transportation and are not safe to carry on or under bridges as they pose a transportation hazard.



    Description: These types of containers are regular to the dry container but instead have sides as doors on one long end that can open completely in addition to the doors on the short end of the container. They come in 20ft, 40ft and 40ft HC dimensions.

    Container Open Side

    They are also called pallet wide container because they are designed to accommodate a wide size of Euro pallets. This type of container is not standardized as the sizes have been tweaked a bit from the regular general-purpose container. They are most common in Euro regions and not readily available for shipping. 

    This special door feature is a major advantage as it provides much wider access which makes loading and loading of large cargo that cannot readily fit in through the regular doors easier and faster.


    Description: An ISO shipping container is a standardized shipping refrigerator used for temperature-sensitive shipments. They come in 20ft dimensions and with different technologies. They are made from weathering steel also known as Cor-ten steel. 

    Container ISO

    How it works: They work by using external generators powered by fuel and electricity to sustain the cooling and keep the temperatures regulated. They sometimes lower the temperatures of the cargo but are ideally designed to maintain temperatures of cargo temperature while in transit.


    The term Reefer stands for refrigerated containers. The temperature-sensitive goods that are transported using the reefer containers include perishable such as meats, fruits and vegetables, medicines, etc.



    Description: An insulated or thermal container has a regulated temperature control that allows it to maintain a higher temperature. Insulated containers are typically constructed of a vacuum flask, similar to a "thermos" bottle. The choice of material is so done to allow them a long life without being damaged by constant exposure to high temperature. 

    Container Insulated

    They are also called thermal containers and are similar to the Reefer container. They are equipped with electrical compliance (mechanical compressor) to cool or heat the air within the container. As such, they are most suitable for long-distance transportation of products such as foods, pharmaceuticals, organs, blood, biological materials and chemicals.



    Description: These containers are half the height of regular containers. They come in dimensions of 20ft and 40ft. Half-height shipping containers are designed for transporting heavy bulk cargo, they have a low centre of gravity so they can better handle heavier loads than taller containers.

    Container Half Height

    They are designed for transporting items such as coal, stones and other bulky and dense cargo, so they are ideal for use in the mining industry and also easy for loading and unloading. They are versatile and robust enough to withstand the rough industrial environment. 



    Description: They are made of strong steel or other anti-corrosive materials for transportation. They are majorly used to transport liquid materials.

    Container Tank


    The production materials of the containers assure the safe transportation and long-life protection of liquid materials. It is advisable that a tank container must be at least 80% full to prevent dangerous surging of liquids in transit, but it must also not be over 95% full or there would not be sufficient room to accommodate thermal expansion. Tank containers are also known as drum containers or tankers.



    Description: Swap body containers have a convertible top and do not have upper corner fittings. They are not stackable and are not standardized by ISO, so, therefore, cannot be used for international shipping.

    Swap bodies

    They are restricted to land-based transportation only. Swap bodies are exchangeable containers used for road and rail. They are commonly used in Europe. They are provided with a strong bottom and a convertible top making them suitable for shipping of many types of products.




    1. Special purpose containers

    Description: These container units are custom made for specialized purposes. The construction and material composition depend on the special purpose they need to cater for.

    Special purpose containers

    They are used for high profile services like the shipment of weapons and arson. But in most cases, security remains the top priority.


    With all the different types of containers, there still remain some general similar features with all the containers. Some of these general features  include:

    • Construction materials: They are made of steel or similar material with corrugated walls for extra strength.

    • Inner Flooring: The flooring of containers are made of heavy-duty marine timber to support the load that is being carried.

    • Doors: Most containers have heavy-duty, wide-open doors (270 degrees) for easy access. Some have more than one (double door containers) while others have on the sides (open side containers).

    • Lashing points: All types of containers have lashing points on the floors, doors and inner walls this is to secure goods.

    • Forklift pockets for handling and mobility: This is essential to support and ease loading and unloading of all types of materials from the containers. 

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    About the Blogger: Valuehandlers is a freight forwarding and logistics company with deep competencies in Air cargo freight, Sea freight, Express parcel, E-commerce logistics, Import and Export documentation, door delivery and pick-up services, Customs clearing and warehousing. 





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