What are the types of shipping containers?

Have you already decided on which type of shipping container you want for your project? If not, then you’re on the right page. Knowledge about the different shipping containers will help you determine what shipping container is best for your project. Each type of shipping container has its unique function, even though some may look alike. Here are the most common shipping containers and their uses.

Dry Storage Containers

Dry Containers are probably the most common type of shipping container. Generally, they are available in 40-foot and 20-foot lengths and are typically available in two heights; standard and high cube, which are 8 feet 6 inches and 9 feet 6 inches tall, respectively. Dry containers, also known as general-purpose containers, carry the usual dry cargo types but are not suitable for foods that need refrigeration as they are not insulated.

Double-Door Containers

The double-door container is a dry container that opens from both ends. When you open the doors on both ends of this shipping container, this makes it look like a tunnel, thus giving it the nickname “tunnel container” or “tunnel-trainer.” This type of shipping container is specially used to transport small vehicles such as motorbikes and snowmobiles. The doors at both ends of the shipping container provide ease for loading and unloading said vehicles.


Open Side Containers

Open side containers have doors that open on the long side of the shipping container. The side opening provides a broader opening for the storage of bulky items, which makes it excellent for onsite storage. In addition, the easy access makes it easier to organize, store and retrieve items.

Open Top Containers

Open top containers are commonly used to store or transport items that don’t fit in standard shipping containers. The roof of this shipping container can be removed using a crane to provide a large opening. It is primarily used for items that are too bigtoo heavy, or oddly shaped. In addition, only a crane can load these items into the shipping container. Large pipes, cable spools, large cables, construction supplies, construction debris, and machinery are cargos that are usually loaded into open-top containers.

Flat Rock Containers

flat rack container is used to store or transport cargos that have unique dimensions. The most usual type of cargo transported using a flat rack container includes heavy equipment, machinery, factory parts, and heavy enterprise components. A flat rack is different from an open-top because flat rack containers are suitable for items that are taller than 8 feet. However, open-top containers are more efficient for loose bulk cargo because they can be closed up.

Car Carrier Containers

Car carriers have collapsible sides that secure the vehicles being stored and transported. The size of car carrier containers can be customized depending on the requirements of the cargo. However, they should be made with heavy-duty steel to withstand harsh weather to prevent their load from corroding. Car carriers don’t only store and transport cars but all kinds of wheeled cargo and vehicles. The load can be completely built cars or cars that are yet to be completed.

Insulated Containers

The primary function of insulated shipping containers is to shield your products from radiant heat exposure and precipitation moisture during transport and storage. They are used to ship temperature-dependent products such as foodchemicalsmedicinesvaccinesorgans, and bloodInsulated shipping containers help maintain products’ efficacy and freshness.

Reefer Containers

Reefer Containers maintain a guided temperature inside while controlling humidity and providing ample airflow for the products. They keep goods frozen, cold, or at an exact temperature for long-distance shipping. Reefer Containers provide accurate temperature and control the interior climate, while insulated containers only maintain initial temperature and shield the cargo from external conditions. “Reefer” is short for “refrigerator.”


Cargo Storage Roll Containers

These shipping containers are specialized for transporting stacks or sets of materials. Cargo storage roll containers are entirely foldable and made with hardy mesh and rollers to move effortlessly with less risk of damaging the cargo. Fun fact: the design of cargo storage roll containers is where Japanese engineers got the idea to build homes with rollers to lessen the risk of damage during earthquakes in Japan.

Half Height Containers

These shipping containers look like giant toy boxes. Half-height containers are half the height of full-sized containers. You can often see this type of shipping container attached to trucks transporting products like coal, sand, gravel, stones, and other mass cargo that need easy loading and unloading.


Tanks are mainly used to store and transport liquid materials like gasoline. In addition, tanks can transport sugar, but they are mainly used to store or transport oil and fuel. Therefore, tanks are essential because they comprise a significant part of the shipping enterprise. This type of shipping container comes in different sizes. It is made of heavy-duty steel to tolerate the weight of its cargo and other anti-corrosive materials to protect it from the materials being transported.


Drums are cylindrical container units most suitable for bulk transporting liquid and granular materials. they are made of hard plastic, fiber, lightweight metals, or steel. You can fill most drums up to 200 liters or about 52 gallons.


Swap Body Containers

A swap body container, also known as exchangeable container and interchangeable unit, is used for both road and rail transport. These containers can’t be stacked, and they don’t have upper corner fittings. Because of that, they are only restricted to land transport. However, swap bodies have foldable legs underneath them, and they can be converted from a truck chassis into a railcar. This kind of transport is usually utilized in Europe. Though they are not made to ISO standards, they are still instrumental in the shipping industry.

Special Purpose Containers

This type of shipping container is custom made for specialized purposes. They are primarily used for high-profile services such as the transport of weapons and arson. A significant number of shipping companies avoid using special purpose containers because they are expensive to construct and haul. Regardless, they are crucial for specific cargos. Therefore, their construction and composition will matter based on the particular purpose they need to accommodate. However, on most occasions, security remains the priority.

So whether you’re building your office, your new home, or transporting goods and materials, it’s good to know that there are over five types of containers to help simplify your task.


Leave a comment