The transportation of shipping containers was developed into a highly-efficient, cost-effective art form in the 1950s. Before then, transporting things overseas required overly-expensive, time-consuming and cumbersome options. The advent of shipping containers, however, greatly decreased the cost of transporting goods globally, enhanced security, simplified the shipping process (especially for individuals and small companies), and greatly expanded shipping options and choices.
As a matter of fact, as of 2009, 90 percent of non-balk cargo is shipped using shipping containers on stackable-surface transport ships. China and the US, furthermore, have some of the busiest ports for said containers.
What is a Shipping “Container?”
Made of rugged, durable metal, shipping containers come in standard sizes: from 20, 40, 45, 48, to 53 feet long. Their volume capacity is measured in twenty-foot (8-foot-wide) equivalent units or TEUs. In addition to size and volume capacity, these containers feature different loading requirements and designs—the latter include:
- Flat Rack
- Tank (for liquids)
- Dry-Cargo Standard
These containers may be filled with just about anything, including furniture, equipment, materials, cars, boats, etc. What type of container you may need depends on what needs to be transported, where it is being picked up/delivered, and unloading needs/demands.
Spoilable foods, for example, may need special reefer containers; open-top containers favor odd-sized things, logs, and big equipment/machinery; flat racks are best for vehicles, industrial equipment, boats, etc; tanks may carry wine, chemicals, cooking oil, etc; and open-side containers may transport organics (tree saplings, vegetables, sod, etc.).
What Else Should You know about Shipping Containers?
If considering using shipping containers, you must first find a shipping company that will handle your unique shipping needs. To that end, shop around for the best rates, making sure to check out the reputation of respective companies. In making the final decision, remember the following:
- Take into account local regulations regarding containers delivered to your address.
- The surface/location where the container will be placed matters; is it a soft surface? It should be rigid enough to support the massive weight evenly.
- Can the container be comfortably rolled off on your premises? Is there a big enough unloading/loading space?
- Is the road ideally suited for a large truck (possibly a semi-trailer)?
- There are maximum weight limits: about 47,000 lbs for 20-footers and 58,000 lbs for 40-footers.
- The containers will probably travel by truck, train, and finally, by ship; they generally stay safely locked until delivered.
- Shipping containers may also be accessorized/custom-fitted as temporary office buildings, storage sheds, etc.