Last updated: 12 October, 2023

Understanding container conditions is crucial when choosing the correct containers for your needs, whether it be for shipping or storage. In this blog, we’ll outline the different grades and conditions, so that you know exactly what to look out for when selecting containers.

If terms like ‘WWT’, ‘cargo-worthy’ and ‘as-is’ leave you scratching your head, you’re in the right place. In general, there are 5 standard container conditions: New/food grade, A-grade, cargo-worthy, WWT (wind and watertight), and as-is. Choosing the right container condition will depend on your unique needs.

If you already know what container condition you require, you may have encountered another obstacle: sourcing equipment in a specific condition, at prices that suit your budget. Luckily, we’ve got the perfect solution for you. 

We’re Container xChange, an online container marketplace for buying and leasing shipping containers of all types and sizes. We’ve got 50,000+ quality containers available in over 2,500 unique locations. So you’ll have no problem sourcing the exact containers you’re looking for, anywhere in the world on our platform.

Curious to see how our marketplace works? Check it out right now! Simply type in the container type you’re after, plus your location to browse and compare shipping container offers today. 

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          What is the importance of shipping container conditions?

          When sourcing containers, it’s necessary to understand conditions (also known as shipping container grades) for a number of reasons. Let’s go over some of the most crucial ones now.

          Suitability: First of all, different container conditions are better suited to specific purposes. For example, if you’re transporting expensive cargo, you probably don’t want a container that’s transported toxic waste or chemicals in the past. 

          In this case, you should opt for a new container. And for food items, you should always choose a food grade shipping container in order to maintain product purity. 

          If you want containers for storage, on the other hand, you won’t need shiny new equipment. In this case, used containers that are sealed and structurally sound will do the trick perfectly for a much more affordable price than new containers. 

          Regulatory compliance: Containers need to comply with a host of regulations set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in order to be deemed fit for shipping. Understanding the conditions required for specific uses is crucial for avoiding fines and penalties. 

          Negotiation power: Being in-the-know about container conditions and what to look out for can also help you negotiate a fair price when buying shipping containers. On the Container xChange platform, for example, you can negotiate the prices of containers directly with the supplier. So if you can see that a used container needs certain repairs before it’s fit to ship goods, you can drive the price down.

          And if you want a second opinion, you can even organize a surveyor to check out the condition before making a final decision. Knowing what to expect from the container condition you choose will help you avoid overpaying for containers. Plus, you’ll be able to make sure you get the best quality equipment out there.

          From Food Grade to As-is: An overview of the different container conditions

          Before we delve into each container condition in detail, let’s get a quick overview of the main differences between new/food grade, cargo-worthy, WWT and as-is equipment.

          New/food grade Cargo-worthy WWT As-Is
          Wind & Watertight Yes Yes Yes Not guaranteed
          Suitable for exports      Yes Yes With repairs No
          Suitable for storage Yes Yes Yes With repairs
          Dents & scratches      Minor dents and scratches acceptable Some surface dents, scratches and rust Dents, repairs and surface rust acceptable Significant dents, scratches and rust acceptable
          Paint on body Fresh paint Faded, acceptable Faded, acceptable Faded, acceptable
          Doors functional   Yes Yes Yes Not guaranteed
          Floors free of holes Yes Yes Yes Not guaranteed

          Now that you’ve got the basics, let’s go into more detail on each shipping container grade and what it’s best suited for, so that you can decide which container condition you need.

          New/food grade shipping container 

          As we mentioned earlier, if you’re transporting food, the containers you opt for shouldn’t have carried any toxic chemicals or products before. A new container is also known as a ‘food grade shipping container’ for this exact reason.

          Even though food is usually packed in bags and is not in direct contact with the container, all products intended for consumption must be transported in new/food grade containers to avoid any unnecessary contamination risks. You’re also unlikely to pass customers if you transport food in anything other than a food grade container. 

          Food grade container

          Here’s what you can expect from a new/food grade container:

          • Highest quality container on the market
          • Structurally sound, with little to no dents or scratches
          • All scratches on container body under 2mm deep
          • Comes with a valid CSC (Container Safety Convention) plate
          • Completely sealed, with zero daylight visibility from inside the container when closed
          • No toxic materials transported in the container in the past
          • Meets all standards for transporting food safely

          Grade A container

          These are new, refurbished or used containers. They have only minimal rust and dents and are completely sealed. Grade A containers are perfect for shipping cargo, as they’re in excellent condition. Here’s what an A grade container should look like:

          • Doors, floor, and seals in good condition
          • Structurally sound, strong and sturdy
          • Meets IICL5 standards
          • Has a valid CSC Plate
          • Interior almost mark-free
          • Minimal surface rust

          Cargo-worthy container 

          In short, cargo-worthy (CW) means that the shipping container is deemed suitable to transport cargo. So, if you have cargo to send out and you’re not fussy about the container being shiny new, a cargo-worthy shipping container will do the trick. Plus, it’s a lot cheaper than new containers.

          CW containers usually come with minor dents, scuffing and scratches, but will be structurally sound, sealed, waterproof and free from holes, protecting cargo from wind, rain and other harsh weather during shipping.

          Here’s what you can expect from a cargo-worthy shipping container:

          • A valid CSC plate
          • A minimum of 50% mark-free interior with some scuffing, scratching and minor surface rust
          • Floors may be stained, marked or have minor delamination
          • More prevalent corrosion and dents possible
          • Likely to have undergone previous repairs
          • Ideal for shipping cargo

          IICL container

          An IICL container meets the standards and specifications set by the Institute of International Container Lessors (IICL). This is a global trade association representing companies engaged in the business of leasing containers and related equipment.

          Here are the properties of an IICL container:

          • Structurally sound, with frames, walls, roof, doors and door seals all in excellent condition
          • Completely sealed, preventing any wind, water or moisture from entering the container
          • Floors in good condition, with minimal scuffs, wear or corrosion
          • Compliant with IMO standards
          • Perfect for shipping cargo

          Interested in leasing shipping containers at the best rates, from reliable suppliers? On container xChange, lease containers of all types and sizes right now.

          WWT container

          A container is wind and water-tight if no wind or water can penetrate through the roof, walls or doors. This container is suitable for cargo transportation under TIR (Transports Internationaux Routiers), UIC (International union of railways) and CSC criteria. It’s also known as a ‘Grade C’ or cargo-worthy 2 container. 

          WWT containers are an affordable option for storage, as they keep goods safe and protected from wind, rain and excess moisture, and are much more affordable than new containers.

          With a WWT container, you can expect the following:

          • A valid CSC plate
          • Extensive markings, corrosion, and scratches on container body
          • Floors marked, moderate delamination
          • Likely to have undergone a series of repairs during its lifetime
          • Will show obvious signs of wear and tear

          Does one or more of these container conditions sound perfect for your needs? Great! Then it’s time to start finding the containers you need safely, at prices you’ll love on xChange. Click the banner today to get a sneak peek of our platform and learn all about buying containers in the conditions you require today.

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          As-is container

          As-is containers are damaged containers that have been taken out of commission in the shipping industry and are often not even suitable for storage. These containers usually have significant damage on the roof, walls and floors. 

          You’ll also find degraded seals, doors that are difficult to open and structural damage. If you’re looking for containers for purposes other than shipping or storage, such as for office spaces or swimming pools, opt for as-is. They’re likely to be very cheap – but be ready to lay out some cash to get them fixed up.

          How to keep your shipping containers in good condition

          It’s one thing to buy containers in good condition, but you’ve also got to make sure they stay that way. Here are a few tips to ensure you keep your containers in great shape so that you can use them for as long as possible.

          How to keep your containers in good condition

          Regular inspections: Regular inspections help you to stay on top of repairs before they turn into major issues. They also ensure that your containers always comply with safety regulations – you don’t want to rack up expensive fines because your equipment is deemed unfit for shipping at a port.

          Regular inspections play a crucial role in ensuring your equipment is covered by insurance. Failure to meet inspection requirements could mean your claims are denied.

          Frequent repairs: As we mentioned above, keeping on top of minor repairs is wise and prevents issues from becoming unmanageable. This is because problems like holes and rust can worsen drastically over time, requiring more resources and cash to fix. 

          Leaving smaller issues can also compromise the safety of your containers, leading to potential cargo damage – which once again could be very costly. 

          Store and load on level surfaces: Shipping containers of all types should be stored on a level surface at all times. This ensures that items can’t slide and damage container walls, as well as preventing containers from toppling or buckling during loading.

          Lubricate doors and hinges: Making sure your container doors and hinges are lubricated will help to keep them in good working order. Lubrication allows for smooth and effortless operation of doors and prevents friction which can lead to excessive wear and tear.

          Service reefers often: If you have reefer containers, it’s even more important to service and maintain them than with regular containers. Reefers have intricate machinery that can be very costly to fix. So it’s better to spend money on regular services and maintenance than shelling out a fortune to fix major problems. 

          Plus, doing large repairs on your reefers means that your containers are out of operation for a while, so you’ll lose business.

          Buy shipping containers on xChange in 4 easy steps

          So now you know all about the different container conditions and what each condition is best suited for. What’s next? Finding the containers you need, quickly and easily, of course! We’ll walk you through the simple steps to buying shipping containers on the Container xChange platform now.

          Decide on your criteria

          Besides the container condition, you’ll also need to figure out the container type and size you need. What’s more, make sure you know what sort of price you’re willing to shell out before you start browsing. 

          With our Insights platform, you can get up-to-date price data in over 180 locations any time of day or night. So you can make informed decisions every time you trade. 

          Browse offers

          Once you know exactly what you’re looking for, it’s time to hop onto the Container xChange trading platform and start finding the containers you need. You can browse and compare multiple offers to make sure you’re choosing the best deal for your budget. 

          Container trading platform

          Finalize the deal

          Once you’ve found an offer you like, it’s time to connect directly with the supplier to discuss the finer details. Not happy with the price? You can negotiate to make sure you’re 100% comfortable with the amount you’re shelling out. 

          Make safe payments

          Once everything is finalized, there’s only one last thing to do: make the payment. Luckily, you can do this securely on the platform itself using the xChange Wallet

          Want to start finding containers in the conditions you need right away? Then what are you waiting for? Browse anything from new and cargo-worthy to WWT containers at affordable prices right now.

          Get the best prices on containers in various conditions on Container xChange

          Ready to buy containers in the conditions you need, at prices that suit your budget? Then Container xChange is the perfect online solution for you. Here are just a few of the benefits you can expect as a member:

          • 50,000+ containers in 2,500+ locations
          • 100% safe payments
          • Vetted partners 
          • 0% commission & no hidden fees

          So how do you get started? It’s so simple! Just click below to sign up for a free demo of the trading platform today, and get the chance to ask any burning questions you might have. You’ll be finding quality units in various container conditions from reliable suppliers in no time at all.

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          Container conditions: Common FAQs

          What is a container inspection checklist?

          The ISO inspection checklist is used to assess the structural integrity of a shipping container. If a container passes the ISO inspection, it is deemed fit to transport cargo across the ocean. This inspection helps to prevent damaged and unsafe containers from leaving shipping ports.

          What is a cargo-worthy container?

          A cargo-worthy container is structurally sound, and has no holes or major dents. It should also be completely wind and watertight. All cargo-worthy containers must have a CSC plate which confirms that they’ve been certified safe to transport cargo.

          What is a standard shipping container?

          A standard shipping container, also known as a dry container, is used to transport dry goods such as grains, clothing, paper and electronics. Standard containers come in three main sizes: 20ft, 40ft and 40ft high cube.