Logistics Know How

Twill’s guide on shipping container sizes and types

Did you know that approximately 80% of the world's cargo is moved by ships? In order to transport such a large amount of goods, there are several different freight shipping container sizes and types to choose from. Here is our shipping container guide to help you choose the right one for your needs. 

Anna-Sophia Metzel, Rosa Guillen, 15 June 2023

Are you shipping cargo and goods all around the world? We've got you covered with the most frequently asked questions and answers on shipping container sizes and types. You can enjoy easy, online access to all our logistics services, including instant pricing, by signing up to our digital platform

What type and size of shipping container do I need for my cargo?

There are endless types and sizes of freight containers and shipping equipment available for transporting your cargo. Essentially, the type of cargo and its needs will determine what kind of container you will require. We’ve listed some of the most common cargo shipping container sizes and types below: 

1. Dry containers: These are called 'dry' because they don't have any temperature controls – they are basic containers for cargo such as toys and clothes. Dry containers (DC) are the most common type of container in the world, with 90% of sea freight loaded into them. They come in different shipping container dimensions and variants: 

  • 20-foot Container or 1 TEU: The standard 20-foot shipping container or “dry van” is one of the most commonly used containers for shipment of goods as ocean freight. They are designed to carry more weight than voluminous cargo. This is suitable for heavy cargo such as minerals, metal, machinery, sugar, paper, cement, and steel coils. You can use a cubic meter calculator for the dimension of 20ft shipping container.

  • 40-foot Container or 1 FFE: Another very common size, the 40-foot dry container is designed to carry and store more voluminous cargo rather than heavy cargo. For example, furniture, steel pipes, paper scrap or cotton.

  • 40 High Cube Container (40HC): These  shipping containers  are made for even lighter cargo. 40HC shipping containers have taller dimensions, so you can fit in more cargo. However, due to weight limitations per container, you cannot use them for heavier goods. 

2. Refrigerated containers: These are cargo containers that can control temperature. They are perfect for storage and for transporting perishables such as flowers or food that need to be kept cold across long distances. Refrigerated shipping containers are available in various sizes, including 20-foot, 40-foot, 40HC and 45HC. 

  • Controlled Atmosphere (CA Container): This type of freight container offers the right conditions inside the cargo container to help to slow down ripening, preserve perishable produce and vastly improve the shelf life of goods, especially during long-distance trips.

3. Special dimensioned shipping containers :

These shipping containers have particular dimensions for specific cargo. They include: 

  • Open Top Container: A shipping container with dimensions suitable for cargo that is over height and cannot be easily loaded through the door. 

  • Flat Rack: A cargo container ideal for shipping goods that are oversized, such as heavy machinery, yachts and construction materials. 

  • Platform: Used for odd-sized cargo which does not fit in any other type or size of shipping container. 

  • Transportable Tank: Made of strong steel or other anti-corrosive materials for the storage, transportation and long-life protection of liquid materials. 

Check our infographic below to find out what fits into a 20-foot shipping container

A 20-foot container has a total capacity of 33 cubic metres (cbm). Now you might ask what it can fit. A 20-foot container can, for example, hold 50-60 fridges, 100 washing machines, 400 flat-screen TVs, 200 full-sized mattresses or 48,000 bananas.

What are the vertical measurements of shipping containers? 

The height of a typical shipping container will be around 8 feet and 6 inches. However, this can increase with larger container options, usually by a foot to reach 9 feet and 6 inches.  

How to book different cargo shipping container sizes and types with Twill

With Twill, you can book dry cargo in 20-40-45 (HC) box containers. You can sign up to our platform now to check prices and schedule your next container shipment. Our platform offers instant pricing, saving you wasted time spent on unnecessary back and forth with quoting.  

If you want to book a shipping container for temperature-controlled cargo, dangerous cargo, LCL (Less than Container Load) or out of gauge shipments, please reach out to the experts at Maersk. At Twill we are supercharged by industry leader Maersk, making it easy for you to book specific cargo shipments directly with them. Just check out their services for fresh and frozen cargo as well as for dangerous cargo or LCL.

Certain types of cargo might require additional documentation. If you are shipping for the first time and aren’t sure about the documentation required, we’ve gathered the most important shipping documentation in our knowledge hub.

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