Did you know that approximately 90% of the world's cargo is moved by ships? In order to transport such a large amount of goods, there are several different freight shipping container sizes and types to choose from. Here is our shipping container guide to help you choose the right one for your needs.

What type and size of shipping container do I need for my cargo?

There are endless types and sizes of freight containers and shipping equipment available for transporting your cargo. Essentially, the type of cargo and its needs will determine what kind of container you will require. We’ve listed some of the most common cargo shipping container sizes and types below:

  1. Dry containers
  2. Dry containers (DC) are called “dry” because they don't have any temperature controls — they are basic containers for cargo such as toys and clothes. They are the most common type of container in the world, with 90% of sea freight loaded into them, and they come in different shipping container dimensions and variants:

    • 20-foot Container or 1 TEU: The standard 20-foot shipping container or “dry van” is one of the most commonly used containers for shipment of goods as ocean freight. They are designed to carry more weight than voluminous cargo. This is suitable for heavy cargo such as minerals, metal, machinery, sugar, paper, cement, and steel coils. You can use a cubic meter calculator for the dimension of a 20ft shipping container.
    • 40-foot Container or 1 FFE: Another very common size, the 40-foot dry container is designed to carry and store more voluminous cargo rather than heavy cargo. For example, furniture, steel pipes, paper scrap or cotton.
    • 40 High Cube Container (40HC): These shipping containers are made for even lighter cargo. 40HC shipping containers have taller dimensions, so you can fit in more cargo. However, due to weight limitations per container, you cannot use them for heavier goods.

  3. Refrigerated containers
  4. These are cargo containers that can control temperature. They are perfect for storage and for transporting perishables such as flowers or food that need to be kept cold across long distances. Refrigerated shipping containers are available in various sizes, including 20-foot, 40-foot, 40HC and 45HC, with different temperature ranges.

    • Controlled Atmosphere (CA Container): This type of freight container offers the right conditions inside the cargo container to help to slow down ripening, preserve perishable produce and vastly improve the shelf life of goods, especially during long-distance trips.

  5. Special dimensioned shipping containers
  6. These shipping containers have particular dimensions for special cargo. They include:

    • Open Top Container: A shipping container with dimensions suitable for cargo that is over height and cannot be easily loaded through the door.
    • Flat Rack: A cargo container ideal for shipping goods that are oversized, such as heavy machinery, yachts and construction materials.
    • Platform: Used for odd-sized cargo which does not fit in any other type or size of shipping container.
    • Transportable Tank: Made of strong steel or other anti-corrosive materials for the storage, transportation and long-life protection of liquid materials.

What are the vertical measurements of shipping containers?

The height of a typical shipping container will be about 8 feet and 6 inches. However, this can increase with larger container options, usually by a foot to reach 9 feet and 6 inches.

How to book different cargo shipping container sizes and types

At Maersk, we offer a wide range of container types and sizes for dry, refrigerated, and special cargo. You can register for an account to check prices and schedule your next container shipment.

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