Are you interested in knowing more about the world of intermodal freight? But does all the terminology overwhelm you? Well, there’s no need to panic, this blog has everything you need to know in simpler words. Read on to learn more about the wonderful world of ocean freight!

Sea containers are an integral part of intermodal freight shipping. Without these big metal boxes, there would be little to no cause for ocean shipping. There are various types of sea containers to choose from, but before we get into that, let’s start at the basics.

What are sea containers?

Sea containers are large boxes which are made of metal and used to store or ship different cargo. Containerization is the method of transporting freight by placing large amounts of cargo into containers and shipping it to the desired destination.

Each container type serves a unique purpose and is designed to carry specific cargo. Let’s go through a couple of sea containers and their dimensions.

11 common sea containers: dimensions and capacity

Just like there are many types of fish in the ocean, there are also many types of sea containers. Each one serves a unique purpose to the industry. You want to be as informed as possible when purchasing your container. It’s beneficial to know what’s what, and how you can utilize them to suit your needs best. Let’s go through a few and see which ones sound familiar to you.

20ft Standard container

A 20ft standard container is, in the simplest way, exactly as the name suggests. A standard dry shipping container comes with an external length of 20ft. This container-type is popular and most commonly purchased. It’s ideal for shipping any dry cargo.


20 ft Standard container

Internal length 19.4ft/5.9m
Internal width 7.8ft/2.35m
Internal height 7.9ft/2.39m
Tare weight 5071.5lbs/2,300kg
Cubic capacity 1,172ft3/33.2m3


20ft standard container dimension

40ft Standard container

The functionality of a 40ft standard container is the same as its 20ft cousin, the only difference being its size. 40ft dry containers are also popular in the market and are generally used for dry cargo.


40 ft Standard container

Internal length 39.5ft/12.03m 
Internal width 7.9ft/2.4m
Internal height 7.9ft/2.39m 
Tare weight 8,268.8lbs/3,750kg
Cubic capacity 2,389 ft3/67.7m3


40ft standard container dimension

40ft High Cube (HC) container

Although they may look like standard containers, high cube containers offer an extra foot of space. This increases the cubic meter capacity, therefore you can accommodate more cargo. 40ft HC is garnering a lot of demand currently.


40 ft HC container

Internal length 39.5ft/12.03m
Internal width 7.8ft/2.35m
Internal height 8.9ft/2.67m
Tare weight 8,687.7lbs/3,940 kg
Cubic capacity 2,696.9ft3/76.4m3


40ft hc standard container dimensions

Open top container

Open top containers are containers that have no roof and are usually covered by a tarpaulin sheet instead of a metal top. These sea containers are designed for oversized, heavy cargo such as machinery, steel and timber. They have end doors which make it easy for loading and unloading.


Open top container

Internal length 19.4ft/5.89m
Internal width 7.8ft/2.35m
Internal height 7.8ft/2.35m
Tare weight 5,181.8lbs/2,350 kg
Cubic capacity 1,147.3ft3/32.5m3


open top container dimensions

Double door container

Double door containers have two sets of double doors on both ends, which means that there are two points of entry. This makes it easier to load and unload cargo. These containers are used for storing and transporting all kinds of dry cargo, but are particularly useful for vehicle shipment.


20ft Double Door container

Internal length 19.3ft/5.89m
Internal width 7.8ft/2.34m
Internal height 7.9ft/2.38m
Tare weight 5,950lbs/2,700kg
Cubic capacity 1,165ft3/33m3


doubledoor container dimensions

Reefer container

A reefer container is also known as a refrigerated container. This type of container is mainly used to transport temperature-sensitive cargo. They are equipped with a generator that distributes cool air from the T-shaped floor of the container. Reefers are great for transporting perishable goods such as fruit, vegetables, meat, etc.


Reefer container

Internal length 17.9ft/5.44m
Internal width 7.5ft/2.29m
Internal height 7.5ft/2.27m
Tare weight 6,791.4lbs/3,080kg
Cubic capacity 999ft3/28.3m3


reefer container dimensions

Hard top container

Hard top containers have a removable steel top. They are convenient for transporting cargo that might exceed the height of the container, so the removable top makes it convenient. Large loads of dry cargo can be loaded and unloaded easily.


Hard top container

Internal length 19.4ft/5.89m
Internal width 7.8ft/2.35m
Internal height 7.8ft/2.35m
Tare weight 5,950 lbs/2,700kg
Cubic capacity 1,165ft3/33.0m3


hardtop container dimensions

Side door container

As the name suggests, side door containers have doors on the longer sides of the box instead of the usual front doorways. This makes it easier to load heavy or irregular-sized cargo that wouldn’t normally fit through the front. Side door containers are generally used to transport dry cargo.


Side door container

Internal length 19.3ft/5.89m
Internal width 7.8ft/2.34m
Internal height 7.9ft/2.38m
Tare weight 5,950 lbs/2,700kg
Cubic capacity 1,165ft3/33.0m3


sidedoor container dimensions

Pallet wide container

Pallet wide containers are specially designed containers that can carry up to 14 euro-pallets. 40ft pallet wide containers can carry around 30 euro-pallets. These containers are not common and have unique dimensions which are different from a standard dry container.


Pallet wide container

Internal length 19.3ft/5.89m
Internal width 19.3ft/5.89m
Internal height 7.8 ft/2.39m
Tare weight 5,291lbs/2,400kg
Cubic capacity 1,213cu ft/34.3m3


palletwide container dimensions

Flat rack container

Flat rack containers are designed to accommodate cargo that simply cannot fit inside a standard container. For example, machinery, timber, and vehicles. They don’t have any sides, but rather support walls on both ends.


Flat rack container

Internal length 19.5ft/5.94m
Internal width 7.7ft /2.35m
Internal height 7.7ft/2.35m
Tare weight 5,203.8lbs/2,360kg
Cubic capacity 1,154.3 cu ft/32.7m3


flatrackcontainer dimensions

Tank container

A tank container is a bulk freight intermodal container designed to transport liquids, gases, and powders. It’s also known as an ISO tank since it’s designed to ISO standards, making it ideal for many ways of transportation. Tank containers transport both hazardous and non-hazardous materials.


Tank Container

Capacity 26,000 liters 
External length 20ft/6.058m
External width 8ft/2.438m
External height 8.6ft/2.59m
Max. gross weight 79,366lbs/36,000kg
Tare weight 8950,76lbs/4060kg
Payload capacity 7041.56lbs/31940kg
Steam heating coil 8m2
Max. cargo temperature 130 degrees C
Test pressure  6 BAR
Working pressure 4 BAR


Dimensions of ISO tank containers

What is the shipping process for intermodal sea containers?

After all the fishing is done for the types of sea containers you’ll need, there is a process to follow when it comes to cargo shipping. There are seven steps you should keep in mind:



Export haulage The process of transferring the desired cargo from the shipper’s premises to the forwarder’s warehouse.
Export customs clearance Required by the country of origin to allow your cargo to leave the country smoothly. Remember supporting documents!
Origin handling The cargo is unloaded and set up where it’s inspected very carefully. Usually handled by the freight forwarder.
Sea freight Sea freight is the method of transporting goods via ocean shipping. Typically handled by the shipping line under contract with freight forwarders.
Import customs clearance Required by authorities of the destination country for all cargo being shipped into their country.
Destination handling Necessary documentation is received and processed. The container is collected from the port and brought to the destination warehouse. It’s unpacked, checked and sent for collection or onward travel.
Import haulage Deliver the cargo to the consignee from the import warehouse. Usually done via the freight forwarder or a local delivery company.

ocean shipping process

Knowing this process can help you understand how shipping works and perhaps even help you save on import haulage and customs clearance charges . There are some other ways you can save money by using sea freight, and that’s by considering used or second-hand sea containers.

Used sea containers: popularity and benefits

Second-hand sea containers come in handy when you’re on a tight budget. Used sea containers offer all the same advantages as a brand new one, at only a portion of the cost. They are easily modifiable which makes them versatile and highly popular. Consider these container types when you don’t need a brand new solution immediately, but remember that the cost of used sea containers also depends on condition.

Find sea containers on Container xChange

We know it can be challenging to get in touch with industry giants, which is why Container xChange offers a neutral platform for container trading and leasing. Here you are able to connect with over 1500 vetted members in 2500+ different locations to find the container you need. All of this can be done on one platform, meaning you don’t have to spend time browsing through hundreds of websites. With a thorough vetting process, we ensure safe and trustworthy interactions where you can do business confidently.

If you’re wondering how this works? It’s simple — all you need to do is browse through the list of different companies that will show up, find the one that suits you the best and, that’s it — shoot your shot. You can communicate your requirements directly to the company to negotiate a price. Once you and your partner settle on a deal, you can close it off and track your container via our automated container tracking. Viola! You’re this much closer to the container you need.

Become a member at xChange and benefit from our easy to use platform. To find out for yourself, just click below and we’ll help you get started.

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Sea Containers FAQ

What are sea containers called?

Sea containers are also called intermodal containers and can be used for storage and shipping.

What are 4 popular types of sea containers?

The four most popular types of sea containers are standard dry containers, high cube, hard top and flat rack containers.

How much are standard sea containers?

Standard sea containers cost around US $5,000 if bought new. Container prices vary depending on location, type, availability etc.

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Sea containers come in many shapes and sizes. Learn the different types and their dimensions. Additionally, know how to be well prepared for your next shipment process.
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