Types of Shipping Containers and Their Uses

There are a number of containers used in the shipping industry for the transportation of goods and products. As part of the logistics process, it's important to figure out which container is best suited for each shipment's specific needs. Let's take a look at the most common types of shipping containers and their uses.

shipping container uses

Dry Storage Container

Dry storage containers are some of the most common containers used in the shipping industry. They come in lengths of 10, 20, and 40 feet, and they are designed to transport dry goods. These containers do not allow for temperature controls, so they are not suited for moving food or chemicals that require refrigeration.

Open Top Container

As the name implies, an open top container has an open top. This allows for easy loading of bulk cargo. There is a roof structure that can be secured to the container with ropes, and that provides protection against rain and other forms of precipitation.

Flat Rack Container

A flat rack container has no top and only two sides. This makes room for heavy loads to be set on the rack from above or from the side. Most flat rack containers are either 20 or 40 feet long, and they are made from steel for strength and durability. Some flat rack containers are collapsible, and some come with additional walls that can be attached to the frame.

Tunnel Container

A tunnel container is set up much like a tunnel, with doors on the front and back for easy access. This improves the efficiency of loading and unloading the container because workers can get in from both sides. Standard dry storage containers only have a door on one side, similar to a storage unit in a local storage facility.

Double Door Container

Double door containers also have two doors, one on the end of the container and a large one along the side of the container. Much like a tunnel container, this style offers extra convenience when it comes to loading and unloading the container. The containers are made in 20 and 40 foot lengths, and they are typically constructed with steel or iron.

Open Side Container

An open side container has one long side that can completely open. This is beneficial for wide merchandise that may be difficult to get through the end of a tunnel container or dry storage container. The side swings open as if it was made of two large doors, but it can still be secured to protect the merchandise inside.

Thermal and Refrigerated Containers

Thermal and refrigerated containers have temperature controls so goods can be kept at a specific temperature during transport. For thermal containers, the temperature is usually higher than the outside temperature. Refrigerated units keep temperatures lower than the outside temperature. Both containers are well insulated to ensure that the climate remains consistent inside.


Tanks are storage containers designed to hold liquids. They are usually constructed out of anti-corrosive materials because of the chemicals they are used to carry. Tanks may also be used to store dry goods like sugar, but they are most often used exclusively for liquids.

Special Purpose Containers

Special purpose containers can be made in nearly any shape or dimension. They are used to transport items that require a custom container to be made for them. Most shipping companies avoid the use of special purpose containers as much as possible because they are costly to create and transport. Nevertheless, this is necessary for certain loads.

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