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Shipping Containers: Types and Uses

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Shipping Containers: Types and Uses
Shipping Containers: Types and Uses

Shipping containers are containers strong enough to withstand handling, transportation, and storage. Their type ranges from ubiquitous corrugated boxes to intermodal transportation in steel boxes. Intermodal containers are designed to be carried from one transportation mode to another without having to unload or load the cargo. Depending on the size, containers can easily fit a car or several.

Types of shipping containers

  • Intermodal containers: Freight containers are reusable storage and transport units used to carry raw materials, vehicles, and various products between countries or any 2 locations. There are approximately 17 million intermodal freight containers around the globe. They are used on most long-distance routes for international trade. 

Millions of containers have been abandoned due to the high cost of retrieval to their ports of origin. The commercial globalization in the 2nd half of the twentieth century is mainly due to the invention of these containers, as their utilization reduced the total cost of shipping goods over long distances. 

Among special shipping containers there are: high bins, open tops, temperature-controlled containers, tunnel-tainers or double door, and pallet wides. A portable oil or fuel freight container is called a transtainer. Hybrid bulk fuel tanks were originally used in construction, logging, farming, and mining sectors. The fuel tank is used to store and transport both dangerous liquids and bulk fuel by sea, rail, and road.

  • Corrugated boxes: Seldom used as moving containers (for more than ninety per cent of transports), corrugated boxes can be recycled. They’re made from lightweight material with enough strength to carry various products called corrugated fiberboard.
  • Crates: A container of large proportions, usually constructed from wood, is called a crate. It is used to move heavy, awkward, or large items. Even without sheathing, crates have a structure that supports itself. Nowadays there are crate versions made of reusable plastic like systainers that carry tools, and euro containers.
  • Flight and transit cases: Transit and flight cases are especially designed for carrying and shipping fragile equipment: camera, instruments, audio-visual, etc. Even while having a light construction, these cases have reinforced corners and edges.
  • Intermediate bulk shipping containers: Intermediate bulk containers are multi-purpose containers used in general for the storage, handling, and the transport of bulk materials and fluids. IBCs are resistant and compatible with a variety of caustic, chemicals, acids, food-grade consumable parts, and inert materials. IBC containers are made of plastic, a composite of steel and plastic, stainless steel, or carbon steel. Some IBC models are collapsible, which helps with saving space upon further usage. 
Intermediate Bulk Shipping Container
  • Bulk boxes: Bulk boxes are pallet-sized bins used to store and transport bulk goods.
  • Drums: A drum is a cylindrical transport container made of fiber, plastic, or steel, and commonly used for moving particulate materials and liquid.
Drums Used For Shipping
  • Insulated containers: An insulated transport container is used to move products that are sensitive to temperature (such as medicine, chemicals, and food). Their usage in the cold chain helps to maintain the efficacy and freshness of products.
  • Pails: Sometimes pails play the role of transport containers.
  • Unit load devices: ULDs are containers used to move cargo on a commercial aircraft. A unit load device can be a container or pallet used in the loading process of freight, mail, and luggage on both wide-body and narrow-body aircrafts. It allows people to bundle a lot of goods into one unit. Considering that this can reduce the number of loaded units, it can save the energy and time of ground staff and even prevent flight delays. Each ULD has a personalized manifest, tracking identification, or packing list to improve the tracking and control of the contents. 
  • Flexible intermediate bulk containers: FIBCs are large-sized standard containers used for transportation and storing granular products. They are usually made of woven synthetic material. 
  • Specialized containers: Aviation components, weapons, and scientific instruments are carried in specialized containers. Elements like customized carrying handles, cushioning, locks, bracing and blocking, lift rings, etc. are usually added for the protection of the cargo and to facilitate handling. Generally, custom containers can be used for multiple transports. European transporters use international fruit containers to ship vegetables, fish, and fruits. 
  • Road cases: Theater props and musical instruments are often shipped in road cases. 
  • Wooden boxes: Dense and heavy products are often moved in wooden boxes. Sometimes, they are even specified for transporting military or government property.


The relative cheapness and extensive supply of used intermodal containers made architects consider them an alternative to conventional building materials. Second-hand moving containers have started being used in housing and as office and retail spaces. Some have been turned into temporary hospital intensive-care units during the Corona virus pandemic.

However, it has been concluded that recycling these containers is problematic, them not being as cheap or as eco-friendly as it might seem. The crates may be coated with phosphorus, lead-based paint, chromate or other harmful chemicals, while the wooden floors might be treated with dangerous pesticides. Others have identified issues with insulation, space constraints, and the fragility of the structure if too much steel gets cut from the container. 

Transport containers are utilized in the television and film industry as temporary sets. Moving containers can be used as support for large-scale film sets when they form a reinforced scaffold by getting stacked on top of each other. 


Joe Webster
Written By:Joe Webster
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Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing. 

After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood. 

With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.

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Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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