CONTAINER BASICS

What is a Shipping Container?

An intermodal (Shipping) 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. These containers are known under a number of names, such as simply container, cargo or freight container, ISO container, shipping, sea or ocean container, container van or (Conex) box, sea 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 of either twenty or forty foot (6 or 12m) 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.

Just like cardboard boxes and pallets, these containers are a means to bundle cargo and goods into larger, unitized loads, that can be easily handled, moved, and stacked, and that will pack tightly in a ship or yard. Intermodal containers share a number of key construction features to withstand the stresses of intermodal shipping, to facilitate their handling and to allow stacking. In 2012 there were about 20.5 million intermodal containers in the world of varying types to suit different cargoes. in 2010 containers accounted for 60% of the world's seaborne trade.

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