ISO container

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40 foot container

ISO containers are standardized large-capacity containers (sea freight containers, English freight containers ) made of steel, which enable simple and fast loading, transport, storage and unloading of goods .

The relevant standards (e.g. dimensions, brackets, stackability) have been coordinated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and are set out in ISO standard 668.

Containers for air freight are standardized according to the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and are subject to different rules.

Swap bodies have similar fastening corners with the same longitudinal spacing as 20-foot ISO containers, but are somewhat wider and therefore wide enough inside to accommodate Euro pallets .


Containers in the port of Barcelona
Loading of ISO containers using a reach stacker in Hof (Saale) main station

Containers for sea ​​freight can go through a transport chain over land and water without individual containers having to be reloaded in ports and / or train stations. The containers with sturdy frames, solid walls and watertight doors can be stowed in more than five layers on top of each other and in more than twenty stacks close together. These stacks are lashed with straps for sea transport .

In land transport on the road or in rail transport , these advantages of the containers compared to semi-trailers and swap bodies are not significant.

A distinction is made between FCL loading (full container load) , in which the sender loads the container himself and the recipient unloads himself, and LCL loading (less than a container load) , in which the sender sends the goods to the carrier as general cargo , who loads them into the container together with general cargo shipments from other senders, unloads them again in the destination port and distributes them to the recipients as general cargo.

The most widely used ISO containers are 8 feet (2.4384 m) wide  and either 20 feet (6.096 m) or 40 feet (12.192 m) long. This results in the abbreviations “TEU” (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) and “FEU” (Forty-foot Equivalent Unit) used as loading units ; it is used, for example, to designate the loading capacity of container ships , handling quantities in ports or freight stations .

“According to the minimum ISO requirements, six fully loaded containers can be stacked on top of each other. Many containers, however, are designed for a stacking height of nine or more full containers. ”Depending on whether they are stored in the hold or on the deck of the container ship , other influences such as wind and waves must be taken into account, in addition to the ship's movements (lateral and longitudinal acceleration) come. The containers are on deck twistlocks and lashing rods / tensioning bolts secured in the cargo area mostly through cell scaffolds or cell guides . Since two 20 'containers mm along 76 are shorter than a 40' container, the cell guides but are often dimensioned for a 40 'container, come in such cases between two 20' containers holding pieces (Twist Stacker) for use to a To prevent slipping.


There are various special versions of the containers, such as refrigerated containers for perishable freight, tank containers for liquid and gaseous substances, car containers for car transport, residential containers for temporary accommodation and containers for the transport of live animals.


Each individual container has its own number. It consists of four capital letters, the prefix that stands for the owner of the container, and six digits plus a control digit.

These numbers are only shown in plain text on the five outer pages. Machine-readable codes are not used, so lighting and camera systems must be used for automatic identification. By repeatedly reading and reporting the identity and location with each passage or transshipment, the route and transport progress of each individual container on its journey can be tracked.

Container terminal in the port of Hamburg
The standardized container corner (corner casting) enables easy stacking and loading
Container locking ( twistlock ) on a truck semitrailer with handwheel and safety device
Container handling system 1969 at the spring fair in Leipzig

Ship sizes

Full container ships are divided into ship sizes and waterways according to their transport capacity. In 2018, the largest container ships of the 2nd generation of the Triple E-Class had a capacity of around 20,586 TEU, the OOCL G-Class 21,100 TEU. The MSC Megamax-24 ships first delivered in 2019 have a capacity of around 23,800 TEU.


The American Malcom P. McLean , who first used large containers for transport on trucks and ships in 1956, is considered to be the author of the dimensions of the ISO container . In order to save the usual reloading in the port, as a young haulier he is said to have had the idea in 1937 to first load entire trucks onto ships, later only the trailers or semi-trailers with their loaded containers and finally only the containers themselves.

McLean founded the shipping company Sea-Land Corporation and had old oil tankers converted so that additional containers could be loaded on deck. The converted Ideal X made its first voyage on April 26, 1956 with 58 containers from Newark (New Jersey) to Houston (Texas) . However, it was ten years before a ship with containers, the Fairland , docked in a European port ( Rotterdam ) on May 2, 1966 ; four days later the ship reached Bremen . The entrepreneur McLean finally had the breakthrough with the supply of freight to the US military during the Vietnam War .

At that time, containers were only built according to American standards. Since their dimensions were not applicable to European road conditions, the ISO standard containers, which are still used today, were introduced after long negotiations.

The first German container ship, the Bell Vanguard , was launched in 1966 at the Hamburg shipyard JJ Sietas . In 1981 the Frankfurt Express of Hapag-Lloyd was the largest container ship in the world until then, with a slot capacity of 3420 TEU.


Containers are largely made of steel (mostly the resistant COR-TEN steel ). A standard container is manufactured in several steps: First, the superstructure , the basic structure of the container made of particularly stable steel parts , is welded. At their corners are the cast steel container corners , also called corner-castings or simply corners in technical jargon . Then struts are drawn in lengthways on the ground. The container floor, which consists of several layers of wood treated with protective agents, is mounted on these struts . Since the floor has to be very stable and resistant, the plywood panels used are usually made of tropical hardwoods. In the meantime, material made of bamboo is also used for the container floors, the plants of which grow back ten times faster than tropical hardwood trees. The use of composite materials with recycled plastic is also being investigated ( Wood Plastic Composit Floorboards for Maersk Container Industry (MCI)).

The walls of the container are made of trapezoidal sheet steel (corrugation) or, more rarely, smooth sheet steel. Finally, the container roof and the doors are installed. The container is then given a protective coating and given its container number.

In 2015, a new type of container with a steel floor instead of a wooden floor was constructed for the shipping company Hapag-Lloyd . Due to the special construction of the beads in the steel, this Steel Floor Container is up to 150 kg lighter than older containers

For quality control, several containers of each series are randomly checked by a classification society . If the containers meet the requirements, the series receives CSC approval. Most of the containers are produced in China today. The price of sea containers fluctuates due to the volatile steel prices and dollar exchange rates. Typically, the price ranges between $ 1950 and $ 2300.

Optionally, additional elements can be attached to containers, underneath

Forklift pockets
Holes with reinforcements set on the side in the sub-floor; with 20 'containers, forklifts can safely lift and transport an empty container on their fork
Gooseneck tunnel
Additional guides under the container starting at the blind wall so that trucks for swap bodies can hold the container safely.
Seal drilling
the door lock has an additional hole that is particularly suitable for inserting approved, single-use customs seals .

Container types

Standard container

Standard containers in the sizes 20 ft, 40 ft and 45 ft high cube are used for the transport of goods with normal dimensions packed in folding boxes or boxes or on transport pallets .

In the North American market, high cube containers (HC) with 45 ′, 48 ′ and even 53 ′ (16.15 m) lengths are increasingly being used. For heavy goods (e.g. heavy machine parts), 20 ' heavy-tested containers (HT) are available, which have the same maximum total weight as normal 40' and 45 'containers, i.e. 30  US tons (27.21554 ISO tons [t]).

For the European market there are containers with a slightly wider interior that allow two Euro pallets to be placed side by side; these are called inland containers or Pallet Wide (PW). In addition, thanks to its internal width of 2.515 m, the 53 'container, which is very common in North American inland traffic, allows two Euro pallets to be transported side by side.

The values ​​for dimensions and weights given in the table refer to standard values. In practice, the data may differ slightly due to the different series.

Container 20 ′ 40 ′ 45 ′ HC 45 ′ PW 48 'HC 53 ′ HC
Dimensions English metric English metric English metric English metric English metric English metric
External dimension length 19 ′ 10 12 6.058 m 40 ′ 0 ″ 12,192 m 45 ′ 0 ″ 13.716 m 45 ′ 0 ″ 13.716 m 48 ′ 0 ″ 14.631 m 53 ′ 0 ″ 16,154 m
width 8 ′ 0 ″ 2,438 m 8 ′ 0 ″ 2,438 m 8 ′ 0 ″ 2,438 m 8 ′ 2 ″ 2.49 ±m 8 ′ 6 ″ 2.591 m 8 ′ 6 ″ 2.591 m
height 8 ′ 6 ″ 2.591 m 8 ′ 6 ″ 2.591 m 9 ′ 6 ″ 2,896 m 8 ′ 6 ″ 2.591 m 9 ′ 6 ″ 2,896 m 9 ′ 6 ″ 2,896 m
surface 160 ft² 14.9 m² 320 ft² 29.7 m² 360 ft² 33.4 m² 368 ft² 34.1 m² 407 ft² 38.0 m² 450 ft² 41.9 m²
Inside dimension length 19 ′ 4 1316 5.898 m 39 ′ 5 4564 12,032 m 44 ′ 4 ″ 13,556 m 44 ′ 4 ″ 13,556 m 47 ′ 6 ″ 14.478 m 52 ′ 6 ″ 16.002 m
width 7 ′ 8 1932 2,352 m 7 ′ 8 1932 2,352 m 7 ′ 8 1932 2,352 m 8th' 2,438 m 8 ′ 3 ″ 2.515 m 8 ′ 3 ″ 2.515 m
height 7 ′ 9 5764 2.385 m 7 ′ 9 5764 2.385 m 8 ′ 9 1516 2,698 m 7 ′ 9 5764 2.385 m 8 ′ 10 1116 2,710 m 8 ′ 10 1116 2,710 m
surface 150 ft² 13.9 m² 305 ft² 28.3 m² 342 ft² 31.8 m² 355 ft² 32.9 m² 392 ft² 36.4 m² 433 ft² 40.2 m²
volume 1,171 ft³ 33.1 m³ 2,383 ft³ 67.5 m³ 3,020 ft³ 85.8 m³ 2,775 ft³ 78.6 m³ 3,488 ft³ 98.9 m³ 3,851 ft³ 109.1 m³
Door opening width 7 ′ 8 18 2,343 m 7 ′ 8 18 2,343 m 7 ′ 8 18 2,343 m 7 ′ 8 18 2,343 m 7 ′ 8 18 2,343 m 7 ′ 8 18 2,343 m
height 7 ′ 5 34 2,280 m 7 ′ 5 34 2,280 m 8 ′ 5 4964 2.585 m 7 ′ 5 34 2,280 m 8 ′ 5 4964 2.585 m 8 ′ 5 4964 2.585 m
52,910 lb 24.0 0 t 67,200 lb 30.48 t 67,200 lb 30.48 t 67,200 lb 30.48 t 67,200 lb 30.48 t 67,200 lb 30.48 t
HT 67,200 lb 30.48 t - - - - - - - - - -
5,140 lb 2.33 t 8,820 lb 4.0 0 t 10,580 lb 4.8 0 t 10,580 lb 4.8 0 t - - 11,110 lb 5.0 0 t
HT 5,290 lb 2.4 0 t - - - - - - - - - -
payload 47,770 lb 21.67 t 58,380 lb 26.48 t 56,620 lb 25.68 t 56,620 lb 25.68 t - - 56,090 lb 25.44 t
HT 61,910 lb 28.08 t - - - - - - - - - -
Capacity euro pallets 11 pieces 25 pieces 27 pieces 33 pieces 36 pieces 40 pieces

Standard containers are 8 feet and 6  inches high (2.59 m). There is also the "high cube" ( HC , also known as HQ high-quantity ) version for the majority of container types . These containers are 9 feet and 6 inches (2.90 m) high. The dimensions are always chosen so that containers can also be transported by truck , train and inland waterway .

Tare and weighing

The empty weight of the standard container is 2300  kilograms (kg) for a 20-foot container and 3900 kg for a 40-foot container. The payload for 20-foot containers is around 21.7  tons (t) with a volume of 33  cubic meters  (m³) . A 40-foot container holds 26.5 t with a volume of 67.6 m³. These are standard information. However, when loading containers, it should be noted that in many countries a maximum weight including vehicle applies to road transport. A 40-foot container that is packed with a load weight of 26.5 t can, for example, be transported by road in Germany, because a total weight of 44 t is permitted in combined transport (i.e. rail - road - waterway). A container, both 40-foot and 45-foot HC, may have a gross weight of 30,480 kg.

For the transport of ISO containers by seagoing vessels, an obligation has been in effect since summer 2016 to determine the weight of the individual containers before or during loading (by weighing) and to record it (as part of the ship's documents ). The background to this is the International Convention for Safety at Sea ( SOLAS ).

Special sizes

There are also a number of special dimensions in the ISO system:

  • there are further height dimensions of the containers. Heights that can be driven without restrictions during road transport are common.
  • there are other length measures that support better use of space in land but not in sea transport. More and more 45 foot (13.72 m) long containers are being introduced, particularly in the American market. These offer more loading space , which is particularly advantageous for bulky goods . 45-foot containers can also be regularly transported on truck container chassis , while maintaining the maximum total length of the truck semitrailer permitted in Europe . The 45-foot container is a direct competitor to the semi-trailers common in Europe . From the point of view of the shipping companies, 45-foot containers should replace conventional semi-trailers. Longer containers do not yet increase the packing density with Euro pallets (120 cm × 80 cm). These can only be stowed in a transverse row and a longitudinal row next to each other, so only use 200 cm or 85% of an inner width of around 235 cm. Together with its high tare weight, this is a major disadvantage of the container compared to transport as pallets directly in the semi-trailer or trailer .
  • Width: Some shipping companies have therefore introduced the wider (pallet width, English: Pallet Wide , PW) inland containers , which are used predominantly in Europe. With a slightly larger external width of 248–250 cm, they still fit into the ISO loading grid and yet are 244 cm Inside width just pick up three pallets side by side lengthways or two pallets across (together 240 cm each) with a little air. 33 pallets (30 across, and the last 3 lengthways) fit into a 45 ′ PW container with an interior length of 13.556 m, just like in a classic semi-trailer with almost identical interior dimensions. However, only a few specially designed containers and loading platforms offer unloading to the side or above.

Height-reduced and possibly somewhat wider containers have been developed in China and India for double-decker rail transport. In India there is the term dwarf container (dwarf).

20-foot porthole container with clip-on unit for truck transport
View of the front of an integral container with a generator in the port (genset)

Refrigerated container (reefer)

Refrigerated containers ( reefer containers ) are divided into two categories: containers that are cooled with cold air from the ship-mounted cargo refrigeration system ( Conair container , porthole container ), and containers with an integrated refrigeration system ( integral container , integral reefer ).

Conair containers are double-walled, with a thermal insulation provided container, the superposed on an end face of two circular openings (port holes) have to be protected by spring fasteners. These openings are used to supply and discharge fresh air. If the Conair container is loaded into a ship equipped with a Conair cooling system, the closures open and cooling air, which is generated by the central cooling system, can circulate in the container. In the meantime, these containers have been replaced by integral containers, as they could only be used with difficulty inland and on unprepared ships due to the lack of independence (clip-on unit required, see below).

Integral containers have their own cooling unit, which is installed in the front wall opposite the door and is operated with electricity . Each container can be set separately to a cooling or heating temperature, which is continuously monitored and recorded by the built-in electronics. For domestic transport, the container does not require a clip-on unit (see below), but can be supplied with electricity by means of a genset ( generator ) mounted on the truck chassis . The total number of all refrigerated containers at the end of 2012 was around 2.2 million TEU.

In order to compensate for the additional weight of the cooling system, walls made of aluminum are often built into integral reefers .

In the case of the refrigerated containers, the interior width / length / height differs from that of a normal ISO container due to the insulation.

Tank container for dangerous goods

Tank container

A tank container is a tank for liquid or gaseous substances that is embedded in a frame that corresponds to the superstructure of a TEU or FEU. Depending on the goods being transported, cooling, heating or stirring units can be installed. The total weight for the loading position in the ship or the means of transport must be taken into account, especially for materials with a high density . Tank containers massively increase the handling speed compared to tank trucks .

Other types of containers

Platform container with truck
Air / surface container
Collapsible iso-containers
dismountable sea containers, OpenSeaContainer
Conair container
Insulated container without its own cooling unit, which, however , can be precisely tempered by supplying cooled air through a stationary (e.g. central ship cooling system ) or mobile (clip-on unit) cooling system. (Also referred to as porthole units , in contrast to this: refrigerated containers with their own refrigeration unit: integrated units )
Double doors
Container with doors at both ends
Dry bulk container
Bulk goods containers that have a loading opening in the ceiling and a pouring opening for unloading in the lower area of ​​the door (English dry bulk bulk goods )
Flatracks container
Containers that have no sides and top, but front sides
Folding (collapsible) containers
Container with hinged sides
Fullside access containers
Container with fully opening side
General purpose container with ventilation
actively ventilated multipurpose container
General purpose container without ventilation
non-ventilated multipurpose container
Insulated container
Insulated container
Named cargo container
Cattle transport , automobiles etc.
Offshore / office container
Containers with special interior fittings, often explosion-proof with measuring or laboratory technology or office equipment
Openside container
Container with a side door
Open-top container
Container with a tarpaulin instead of a solid roof
Pallet wide container
common dry container to ensure optimal utilization of Euro pallets to reach
Platform (container)
Platform-based containers
Container with superstructure
Thermal container (refrigerated, refrigerated and / or heated)
temperature-controlled container

Further container types have developed on the basis of the ISO container.

The most important are:

Storage container
lighter construction, available in the following main sizes: 6 ′, 8 ′, 10 ′, 15 ′, 20 ′
Container building (also office container )
have in common with ISO containers only the dimensions (usually 20 ′) and the locks at the four corners of the base plate, usually also the locks on the roof. These are fully insulated containers that have already been installed and were originally only used on construction sites as construction site containers. These are now used from offices to kindergartens. However, the load capacity (stacking load) is far below that of ISO containers; no or only a few also light office containers can be stacked on top of one another. Thanks to their standard dimensions, they can easily be brought to the construction site in a truck suitable for container transport , where a construction site crane lifts them from the loading area and places them in their place. More recent projects use the greater resilience of actually used or new ISO containers for the construction of larger buildings (up to nine floors) as well as for buildings with a longer lifespan (hotels, student dormitories). The temporary character takes a back seat to the advantages of the quick and inexpensive construction of the building. Fully insulated and equipped 20 'and 40' containers are used.

Dismountable sea containers

The unbalanced trade flows between east and west make it necessary to reposition empty containers, i.e. to bring them to a place where they can pick up cargo again. Around 30% of all sea containers worldwide are handled without cargo. Empty containers cause high costs for transport, storage and loading. Container traffic is growing worldwide by around 7% per year. This increases the need for empty transport and storage space considerably, which leads to not inconsiderable costs.

One approach to alleviating the empty container problem is to collapse the containers. In this way, several empty containers can be transported and stored on one parking space (= slot) . There have been a number of attempts in the past to improve the logistics chain with foldable sea containers. However, these systems have all failed.

Reasons for this:

  • the containers lost their approval during operation
  • the containers were mechanically vulnerable
  • there is a risk of accidents during assembly or dismantling
  • high costs arise during assembly and disassembly

Collapsible container projects:

  1. Fallpac
  2. Foltainer
  3. OpenSeaContainer
  4. SIO "Six-In-One" "6-in-1"

The OpenSeaContainer project takes up the approach of the company Leanbox, which has developed a container that can be dismantled and reassembled with the help of a special machine. The rights to this sea container have been transferred to the peer engineering platform PeerToProduct has published the design data and test results under a special GNU General Public License for physical products.

Feldpostamt der Bundeswehr - Mobile ISO container

More containers

  • Sanitary containers - equipped with showers, toilets, urinals, hand basins or the like. These only need to be supplied with water inlet and waste water drainage as well as electricity and are then immediately ready for use.
  • Container sewage treatment plants - equipped with all the technology of a small sewage treatment plant, is used at festivals, folk festivals in undeveloped areas and similar situations where there is no possibility of feeding faeces into the sewers. Sanitary containers, for example, can be connected here. The end product of the container sewage treatment plant is treated wastewater that can be discharged into the environment.
  • Emergency power generators - equipped with a generator for power generation and an integrated tank for the required diesel fuel .
  • Server farm - equipped with a complete IT infrastructure made up of standard components in order to quickly establish an operational replacement for lost hardware as part of a disaster recovery in the event of the total loss of an IT location .

The military , fire services and civil protection also use container systems in ISO format to move modules for a specific purpose to a specific location and to be able to use the loading vehicle for other purposes, usually for the transport of further modules:

  • Fire brigades and civil protection use containers with special materials to ward off and combat specific dangers.
  • In the military, containers are used as a removable, fully equipped base for telecommunications (radio). The Bundeswehr also uses the ISO container as a mobile post office ( field post ).
  • At large telecommunications providers (e.g. Deutsche Telekom), ISO containers are used as part of disaster recovery. B. used in floods and other major locations. Entire switching centers can be set up here on the basis of the ISO container.


The large, clearly visible and visually / optically readable labels in accordance with ISO 6346 for containers in designs in accordance with ISO 668 are used for transport processing. These labels only serve indirectly to ensure transport safety or to protect the load or the transport vehicle. The containers have different labels as

  • Manufacturer identification
  • Property designation or owner designation (assignment to a container pool)
  • Classification for use
  • clear identification by registering the BIC
  • Hazardous goods labeling according to UN regulations
  • Reference information for controlling the transport processes
  • Reference information for the cargo documents
  • Control information for transport safety

For all purposes, a manufacturer's mark on the nameplate and plain text markings on five of the surfaces (underside without mark) have been used. Optically more readable codes and / or electronically readable identifiers have not been standardized until now.

Door of a container with BIC number

The labeling of containers in plain text is internationally standardized according to ISO 6346 . This standard only describes optically readable labels in plain text. According to ISO 15459-2, the issuing unit is (issuing agency) for this mark will be the International Container Bureau B ureau I nternational the C ontainers du et Transport Intermodal ( BIC ) based in Paris .

When registering, each container receives its globally unique container number, which is clearly visible on both fronts. It consists of four standard letters (A – Z each, but so far only up to U in the fourth position), six digits and a check digit calculated from all 10 characters and digits , which almost excludes incorrect entry by number rotators . An online check is possible in an input mask on the BIC website. The calculation of the check digit is described in the standard EN 13044-1 Annex A or here .

The third position of the container number of the container shown above is imprecise and therefore offers a good example: neither a Q nor a G lead to the goal here (check digit 3 each), only the correct entry "LSCU 107737" returns 9. However, the example also shows that numbers with the similar letters G and Q can be confused (or other letters 10 positions apart in the alphabet, such as H and R).

The standardization of the containers and their labels is carried out in the ISO commission JTC1 , a joint commission of the TC104 and TC122, which is dominated by shipping companies and shippers.

Other state-of-the-art indicators, which are only widespread in individual relations, are those with RTLS tags according to ISO / IEC 18000 and with optical codes , also with data matrix codes according to ISO / IEC 16022. The standardization of these indicators is gradually developing.

In the course of the spread of the pallet-wide containers in Europe, the EU's Intermodal Loading Unit (ILU) initiative was launched. This showed advantages if the transport by container and swap body was standardized. This led to the introduction of the ILU code by standard EN 13044, which has the same format as the BIC code used for ISO containers - the international container office BIC has committed itself to only assign owner codes for ISO containers, with the fourth digit Have U, J, or Z. The newly created registration office of the UIRR (International Association of Companies for Combined Transport Rail-Road) will only issue owner codes for swap bodies that contain an A, B, C, D or K in the fourth position - holders of a BIC-U can issue a Apply for an ILU-K with the same sequence of digits above. The issuing of ILU codes began in July 2011, since July 2014 only swap bodies with an ILU code have been accepted in intermodal transport and from July 2019 all containers must have a standard-compliant label.

Transport safety and protection

The transport safety of the containers is basically organized according to the same criteria as before their introduction (approx. Since 1968) in European and US rail traffic. Newly introduced and also internationally standardized are the standardized corner fittings for handling compared to other forms of transport. The containers are new compared to the standards common in rail traffic at the time (around 1968)

  • Closure as protection against sea water and against driving rain (not pressure-resistant)
  • Locking against accidental opening during transport
  • Sealing in the interests of customs and the carrier

In contrast to what is customary for freight wagons in European rail transport , the containers carry them

  • no information about the place of origin and destination of the transport
  • No information about the contents of the container (an exception is dangerous goods; in this case, a label indicating the type of dangerous goods must be attached to the outside of the container, and from 4000 kilos also the UN number)

Other technically complex safety devices are in use in individual cases, such as:

  • Detection and signaling device for opening alarms
  • Measuring and signaling device for location reports
  • Measuring and signaling device for transport conditions (cooling temperature, humidity, shock)
Locking with a bolt seal (steel with plastic jacket and identification number)

Locking status and safety information

The container is packed by the shipper. This also guarantees the proper declaration of the content (only in the accompanying documents) and its secure attachment (to avoid changes in focus). In further handling by the freight forwarder (forwarder, shipowner) and by the loading company, there is no worldwide use of facilities that can determine:

  • who packed the container,
  • who opened the container,
  • who transported the container.

Therefore, all extended measures for container security are based solely on the integrity of the locked state. A recognizably open container therefore remains there until the safety of the locked state has been checked and certified again.

The transport security is documented in advance of the physical transport and checked repeatedly by certified transport companies. Reliable safety information is determined by customs at least 24 hours before loading, or the container is left standing until this information is available at the same time interval before loading. Details of the control procedure are continuously adapted to the risk analyzes of the security authorities and customs.

There is no comparable locking status for air freight containers.

ISO container and occupational safety

The opening and unloading of ISO containers for control purposes or for the transshipment of goods pose a variety of hazards and health risks. This affects, for example, employees in the port who open freight containers for control purposes or to reload the goods. Studies show that around every fifth import freight container has concentrations of harmful substances that are hazardous to health.

The container air polluted by fumigant residues, industrial chemicals or mold can endanger the health of employees if inhaled. In addition, there is also a risk of mechanical accidents, for example from falling or overturning cargo.

There are labeling regulations with warning notices for fumigated freight containers. Often, however, these markings are missing or show deficiencies, which can lead to unexpected dangerous situations. According to the Ordinance on Hazardous Substances, containers that are considered "fumigated" may only be opened by competent or competent persons. However, there are no corresponding regulations for industrial chemicals and biological agents. As part of the risk assessment , all possible hazards and loads when handling ISO containers and suitable protective measures must be clarified in advance.

Due to the low environmental stability of coronaviruses, transmission of the pathogen when handling containers appears unlikely in most cases.

ISO container as an investment

Investments in ISO containers were considered lucrative for a long time, but from the mid-2010s onwards, following the insolvency of the Hamburg Magellan Group and subcontractors of the P&R Group, they tended to be a bad investment.

See also


  • H. Linde: Transport of refrigerated cargo in containers on board container ships . In: Yearbook of the Shipbuilding Society . Vol. 65, 1971, pp. 197-223 .
  • Marc Levinson: The Box. How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger. Princeton University Press, Princeton 2006, ISBN 0-691-12324-1 .
  • Hans Jürgen Witthöft: Container. The mega carriers are coming. Koehler, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-7822-0882-X (on the history and development of container shipping) (1st edition under the title Container. A box makes a revolution. )
  • Heinrich Hecht, Thomas Pawlik: Container shipping. Heel Verlag, Königswinter 2007, ISBN 978-3-89880-873-6 .
  • Olaf Preuß: A box conquers the world. The triumph of a simple invention. Murmann-Verlag, Hamburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-86774-031-9 (the importance of the shipping container for modern globalization)
  • Alexander Klose: The container principle. How a box changes our thinking. Verlag Mare, Hamburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-86648-115-2 .
  • Jakob Boerner: Boxes without dents. In: Deutsche Seeschifffahrt , issue 5/2013, pp. 36–41, Association of German Shipowners eV, Hamburg 2013.
  • Johannes March: Half-height boxes for efficient empty container logistics . In: Hansa , Heft 7/2019, S. 34/35, Schiffahrts-Verlag »Hansa«, Hamburg 2019

Web links

Commons : ISO container  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. FCL and LCL containers
  2. Container Handbook, Chapter Ships used to transport containers, Part 1.
  3. A detailed list of the prefixes can be found at
  4. MSC GÜLSÜN docks at Bremerhaven - and sails into a storm. In: WorldCargo News. August 19, 2019, accessed on September 30, 2019 (English): "The world's first 24-across container vessel, the 23,800 TEU MSC GÜLSÜN, currently the world's largest container ship, docked for the first time on August 19th at MSC Gate terminal in Bremerhaven, but questions are being raised in the German ports community. "
  5. How tin boxes changed trade. In: May 8, 2016, Retrieved May 9, 2016 .
  6. Felix Selzer: A box full of innovations. In: Hansa . Issue 12/2015, pp. 36–39.
  7. picture proof
  8. New container type developed. In: Hansa . Issue 6/2015, p. 8.
  9. Features of APL Containers ( Memento from January 2, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  10. Frank Binder: Loaded shipping containers must be weighed. In: Daily port report of May 21, 2014, p. 1.
  11. Example Keetwonen: Student residence in Amsterdam ( Memento from November 19, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  12. Check Digit. In: Bureau International des Containers et du Transport Intermodal, accessed on February 10, 2013 .
  13. RTLS tags according to ISO / IEC 24730, RFID tags
  14. New labels for intermodal loading units in Europe. (PDF; 1.9 MB) In: International Association of Companies for Combined Transport Rail-Road, May 10, 2011, accessed on October 6, 2011 .
  15. GmbH & Co. KG: Pest infestation - gas and degassing systems. Retrieved June 18, 2020 .
  16. Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance (IFA): Freight container focus of danger. Retrieved June 18, 2020 .
  17. ^ German Social Accident Insurance eV (DGUV): Dangers when opening and unloading freight containers. Retrieved February 18, 2019 .
  18. Federal Institute for Risk Assessment: Can the novel coronavirus be transmitted via food and objects? Retrieved June 18, 2020 .
  19. Christoph Rottwilm: 12,000 containers sold - investors get off lightly. In: Manager Magazin . July 17, 2017, accessed March 21, 2018 .
  20. ^ Container: Insolvency filings with the market leader P&R. In: . March 19, 2018. Retrieved March 21, 2018 .