Durable and multifunctional, standard containers are the most common freight unit for sea transportation. These containers are referred to as “dry.” When fully enclosed, they provide weather-proof protection from the elements. Twenty-foot and forty-foot containers are the most common sizes.
These containers are designed for any type of transport – sea or land. High cube containers are taller and thus offer more capacity for larger cargo.
External dimensions, minimum internal dimensions and maximal weight (i.e. including cargo) are fixed by the ISO standard 6346. Tare weight, actual internal dimensions and other measures will however differ from one model and manufacturer to the other.
20-foot, 40-foot and 45-foot Standard Container Dimensions
Also called reefers, refrigerated containers or temperature-controlled containers are used for goods that require temperature regulation like food, electronics or medication. Their built-in engine maintains their internal temperature between -35 and +30⁰C and requires the containers to be connected to a power source in order to guarantee consistent thermal performance.
The size and weight of the engine will influence the exact tare weight and cubic volume capacity, which can thus significantly differ from one model and manufacturer to the other.
20-foot and 40-foot Refrigerated Container Dimensions
Tank containers, a reinforced frame nesting a tank, specialize in the transport of food, oil, fuel and chemical liquids. Such container types are easy to load and reliably retain even flammable contents. Tank containers are also normally not available from steam ship lines, but rather from specialized leasing companies.
20-foot tank containers will typically hold up to 26,000 liters of liquid and the dimensions match that of classic 20-foot containers.
20-foot tank container dimensions
- External Dimensions (l x h x w): 6.058 m x 2.591 m x 2.438 m / 19' 10.5" x 8' 6" x 8' 0
- Max Weight: 30,480 kg/ 67,200 lbs.
- Approx. Cubic volume: 26 m3
Flat racks and platform containers are suitable for out-of-gauge cargo but naturally carry in-gauge goods as well. Flat racks are usually shown with two side walls, while platform containers feature no paneling at all. The exact container dimension will vary depending on the manufacturer and paneling solution, but they do come in 20- and 40-foot versions like any ISO container.
Open Top containers follow a similar principle, but do feature four side panels and a soft tarpaulin top, and also allow for the transportation of bulk cargo. They are best suited for cargo that requires crane loading from the top of the container, or that contains taller items. They exist in 20-foot and 40-foot versions, thus featuring similar dimensions to the standard container types explored above. They are notably also available as high-cubes, because the tarpaulin hoops reduce the headroom and thus loading capacity. It is also worth mentioning that open-tops’ door headers can be removed for easier access through the door opening.