Five things you probably never knew about shipping containers


We have all seen them, piled high at the harbours or on the decks of large boats – shipping containers. Somehow there always seem to be more about than are needed. Wherever you go you see them, so often stacked one atop of the other seemingly going nowhere. But is this really the case? Is there genuinely such an enormous surplus of these items? How much do they cost? Are they all the same size? So many simple questions about such a simple daily item, it is hard to know where to start. Here are a few answers to those questions to help you understand a little more about the shipping container.

Are they always the same size?

As much as it might look that way to the outsider, the answer to this question is ‘no’. Containers come in a variety of sizes. They are a bit like Lego in fact. They all conform to similar dimensions, but the blocks do vary in size. As such you get regular containers, high cube shipping containers (which are about a foot higher than the standard size), you extra length ones and stocky shorter ones. They are designed in such a way that all shapes and sizes can be stacked and fitted together easily.

Who makes shipping containers?

Approximately fifty percent of all the world’s containers are made by just one company – The China International Marine Container Group. These containers are typically made of a special type of steel, known as weathering steel.

How many containers are there?

This is a hard question to answer but as we have already established there always seem to be plenty of containers stacked high at ports around the world. It is estimated that there are approximately twenty million shipping containers in existence at any given time. Of these approximately six million are currently loaded onto ships and making their way around the world at any given moment. Such is the demand for container shipping that the statistics suggest that on average there are 200 million container trips around the world every year.

How much do they cost?

Prices of containers vary quite dramatically depending on if they are new or second hand and in turn what sort of condition, they are in. A used container in good condition can cost upward of $5000. Most people tend to buy second-hand containers, or they lease containers, these options are seen as the most cost-effective.

What is the life span of a container?

There are a few factors that determine the life-span of a container, the most important factor being usage. A container that stays in one place and which is used solely for storage can easily last for upwards of 30 years without requiring any maintenance. And with maintenance, it will go for a lot longer. Containers that are in high shipping rotation will last for less long, with reports suggesting that most shipping companies depreciate their container assets over a period of approximately 12 years.

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