The invention of the century, for shipping, was really the container. They brought us the standardization for international shipping and made it possible for even the small/lower value items to be traded around the world on a regular basis.
Of course as any invention, containers have evolved. They created different solutions to suit the individual needs of customers. Containers are not limited to 20’ FT, 40’ FT and 40’ FT HC. I would like to give you a little inside look at each container type that’s out there and how are they being used:
Besides being mainly used in 3 types (20’FT, 40’FT and 40’FT HC), dry containers also have other variations.
Just like the 40’FT container evolved with a 1’ft height difference with 40’FT HC, 45’FT came into the picture to load more of lighter cargo in one shipment with its extra 5’ft length. This is used for wide variety of goods. We see 45’FTs for garments from China, plastic scrap from USA, carpets from Turkey and even construction steel or pipe shipments around the world.
Pallet Wide Containers
This is a container type which is used for standard Euro Pallets (1.2m*0.8m). These containers have 2.45 m internal width, which allows companies to load 5 additional pallets (10 if they can double stack). Especially for Europe trade this is used to gain from space and save on freight cost.
From the outside these containers seem identical to dry containers. They have an internal ventilation system which accelerates and increases the natural convection of the air within the container. It’s mainly used for organic products that require ventilation. These can be used for anything from coffee beans in bags to copper wires.
An additional tool that can be used with a dry container for different products is a flexi tank.
Mostly any liquid that’s not hazardous can be loaded in flexi tanks. They are basically very large bags that can be installed in a container. Today, flexis have their own valve(s), which enables them to be loaded from a tank truck or directly from the facility and they are usually around 20 tons (20-24000 liters). The most important point with flexi tanks is that you should use the best quality bags and for one single time only – because they are actually bags they can leak or damage the container. They are used for a wide range of products from olive oil, lubricants and even wine – well not for 2005 Chateau Petrus I am guessing.
I believe reefers are state of the art equipment in container form. By keeping goods from -25C to +25C, they are widely used for food items, agri products, and special chemicals. They have their own power generator which needs to be plugged (literally) on the vessel and in the port. That’s why a reefer container’s port charge is always higher than a regular container’s.
Open Top Containers
These are just like dry containers, only the top is open. They either have removable top or installed tarp (especially for outgauge cargo). They are mainly used for cargo that is too long or too heavy to be loaded by a forklift from the door. It’s also for cargo that is slightly over height. Besides being used for machinery and large finished goods, it is also used for block marbles, glass and bulk minerals.
Flat Rack Containers
Flat rack containers are mainly used for over height, over width or heavy cargo. They have collapsible sides which help to load even longer pieces. Some of the flat racks can carry as much as 45 tons per container. From machinery to yachts, you see very different cargo getting on moved on this equipment.
These are pretty similar to flat rack containers. Used for heavy and/or overwidth/height cargoes. An interesting way of using a platform containers is, when laid side by side on the deck or in the hold of container ships, they can be used to transport even larger non-containerizable cargo.
Only a few carriers have this equipment, it’s mostly used by tank operator companies who are renting their equipment globally. The equipment has a 20’DC frame with a tank inside. They are used both for non haz and haz liquids.