There are many different types of shipping containers and each one has its own purpose. Many people may not be aware of the wider range of container types, but there is a container for every purpose that a business might need them for.

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A Brief History Of Shipping Containers
Shipping Container Types
Things To Look For In A Shipping Container
Shipping Container Uses & Types
Shipping Cargo Container Dimensions


The modern shipping container was invented in 1955 by former trucking company owner Malcolm Mclean, with the help of engineer Keith Tantlinger as an 8ft tall 8ft wide by 10ft long unit. The unit’s design, just like current designs, incorporated a twist lock mechanism on all corners for secure attachment. The patents to this design were given to the industry and thus was the beginning of international standardization of shipping containers.

The advent of the standardised shipping container dramatically reduced transport costs and supported the boom in international trade after World War II. It was a major contributor to globalisation.  This is because containerisation eliminated manual sorting of most cargos and reduced reliance on warehousing. As a result, congestion was reduced at ports, shipping times shortened and losses from theft and damage were also reduced.

Over the years, two sizes of shipping containers have become the most used standards worldwide: the 20ft container and the 40ft container. In the U.S.A., the 48ft and 53ft containers are used but rarely outside of this area. The 10ft container is also used worldwide but not as common as the 20 and 40ft containers.


Intermodal Shipping Containers

These are used to ship freight overseas. Once the container ship has been berthed, the ship then needs to be unloaded. Massive gantry cranes are used to transfer large containers from the ship over to the dock, where they are separated from one another and then grouped in a large storage area. The containers are then loaded onto trucks or rail cars for shipment to their final destination.

Used Shipping Containers

These are sought by many businesses because they are available at a much lower price than new ones. Purchasing a refurbished container can save a business a lot of money. For smaller businesses on a lower budget who are dealing with shipments on a smaller scale, purchasing a used shipping container just makes financial sense. Some used shipping containers have only been lightly used and are then offered up for sale. This means that those who are in the market for a used shipping container can find one in superior condition for a reduced price.


Sellers of used shipping containers are willing to sell single units and this represents substantial cost savings for smaller businesses that cannot afford to purchase containers in large quantities. These containers are also extremely useful for a wide range of non-shipping uses, including storage and instant buildings. Here are several types of shipping containers that are readily available for purchase:

  1. A–Grade Fully Painted - These shipping containers are in very good condition and have been repaired. All holes are fully repaired and there are no dents in the container more than 50 mm deep. The floor of the container is sound with no breakage or cracks. The doors easily open with a full 270 degree range and do not stick at all. The bars lock and all of the moving parts of the container including the seals, handles, retainers, saddles and cams are in good condition. The Grade A shipping container is wind and water tight making it completely suitable for food transport or for export. The containers have been repainted to an as new condition using marine grade paint.
  2. Cargo worthy (wind and water tight) - Although the container is not in new condition it is certified for use in overseas shipping. This type of container must meet certain standards of structural strength and are water tight and wind tight. They are better quality than standard used containers that do not have a certification.
  3. High Cube Cargo Worthy - A high cube container is one that is between 40 and 45 feet high. The container is designed to carry a maximum payload of 30,200 kg or 76 cubic meters to the load line. This container is designed to hold a large amount of product and ship it safely to its final destination.
  4. Reefer Shipping Container - This is an intermodal container that is refrigerated so that temperature sensitive cargo can be easily transported over great distances. Although these containers have their own refrigeration unit, they need external power from electrical hook-ups at a port or container ship. These units can be transported on roadways and hooked up to a diesel powered generator. The container is effectively plugged in during the road trip, keeping the contents inside refrigerated. If a reefer is stored under the deck of a vessel without adequate ventilation it may have its own cooling system which will remove any heat that is generated. These systems are fairly expensive so most boats rely on ventilation to remove any heat that is collected in the cargo hold. Reefer units allow consumers around the world to enjoy fresh products from many parts of the world. Reefers have interior insulation on the doors, walls, floor and roof of the container. By controlling the temperature inside the unit, food can be shipped across the world and received in good order at the other end.
  5. Refrigerated Shipping Container - This is a shipping container that keeps contents at a certain cool temperature. These containers are usually identifiable by the aluminium white coloured sides. They have smooth flat walls (not corrugated like standard shipping containers). They have refrigeration machinery located at the rear of the unit. Before a refrigerated shipping container is used it requires a serious amount of inspection including passing a Pre-Trip Inspection (PTI) prior to loading the container. During a PTI the container and the machinery that runs it must be inspected to ensure the settings are correct and that the container is in good condition.

If you are planning to purchase a used shipping container you will need to inspect it to ensure that it meets with your requirements and that it is in good condition. When containers are first constructed they are strong and durable, but years of use can cause substantial damage. If you plan to purchase a container sight unseen, be sure to ask for pictures of the container both inside and out from all different sides.


Most containers are manufactured to specific standards, but there are some non-standard sizes available. You will want to confirm that the container that you are purchasing has standard dimensions and will be suitable for the purpose that you need it for. If you can take a look at the container then there are certain things that you need to check for.

  • The container should be wind and water tight. Close the doors of the container and remain inside, look around to see if there are any holes where the daylight comes in. Look for rust and ensure that it is only on the surface. Check for rust or corrosion around hardware and door seals.
  • Make certain that the doors open and close fully and correctly. Door seals should be intact and the floor should be solid with no spongy spots. If any repairs have been made they should be correctly caulked, sealed and painted.
  • Examine the top of the container for major dents.
  • Make certain that there is no contamination or strong odours inside the container.

Once you have found a suitable container, then it is up to you to make the final decision to purchase the unit. Used containers are a good investment even if you are only using them temporarily because they do not lose their value if they are cared for properly.

Tiger Containers prides itself on providing only the best quality new or used containers, and are happy to assist every step of the way through the process.


Various varieties of the 20ft and the 40ft shipping containers exist. They include:

    1. Refrigerated containers – These come in 20ft or 40ft container sizes with refrigeration equipment for the transportation of perishable goods. They are also well insulated for heat protection.Refrigerated containers
    2. High-cube containers – These have a slightly taller height as compared to the normal container. A regular container is 8ft 6in tall while a high cube container is 9ft 6in tall. These are used where extra headroom is needed.High-cube containers
    3. Open top containers – These resemble regular containers but their instead of a roof they have a tarp. They allow top loading for taller/larger items to be transported in container
    4. Side Opening containers – These containers open completely on one side perfect for loading pallets and still have the normal container doors at one end. Side Opening containers

  1. Bolster or flat rack containers – They are made for irregular cargo and may have collapsible or fixed end walls at either end. They are used for out-of-gauge/oversized cargo, machinery, drums and barrels and other similar items.bolstwer or flat rack container


Shipping Cargo Container Dimensions

The dimensions for the different size containers are as follows:

Spec/Container Size
10ft Container
20ft Container
40ft Container/ High Cubes (HCs)
Internal Volume 15.89m3 32.85m3 67.5m3 (75m3 HCs)
Tare Weight (Approx.) 1,200kg 2,130kg 3,660kg
Gross Weight (Max) 10,160kg 30,500kg 30,500kg
Length 3.05m (10ft) 6.1m (20ft) 12.19m (40ft)
Width 2.44m 2.44m 2.44m
Height 2.59m 2.59m 2.59m (2.80m HCs)
Internal Length 2.79m 5.90m 12.03m
Internal Width 2.35m 2.35m 2.35m
Internal Height 2.39m 2.39m 2.39m (2.650m HCs)

Because of the insulation and cooling mechanism, refrigerated containers have smaller internal dimensions that dry cargo containers. They do however retain the external dimensions as you shall see:

Spec/Container Size
20ft Container
40ft Container
40ft High Cube
Internal Volume 32.85m3 67.5m3 67.5m3
Tare Weight (Approx.) 2,130kg 3,660kg 3.660kg
Gross Weight (Max) 30,500kg 30,500kg 30,500kg
Length 6.1m (20ft) 12.19m (40ft) 12.19m (40ft)
Width 2.44m 2.44m 2.44m
Height 2.59m 2.59m 2.89m
Internal Length 5.90m 12.03m 12.03m
Internal Width 2.35m 2.35m 2.35m
Internal Height 2.39m 2.39m 2.65m

At Tiger Containers, we provide all these containers for either sale or hire at competitive prices here in Australia. Contact us for more information and have a chat with our friendly and knowledgeable staff.

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