Ultimate Guide to Sea Container Sizes & Dimensions

sea container sizesWelcome to our comprehensive guide to sea container sizes and dimensions! Whether you’re a first-time shipper or an experienced logistics professional, understanding the different shipping container dimensions and types of shipping containers is essential for transporting goods safely and efficiently.

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about shipping container dimensions, from standard shipping containers to specialized containers like refrigerated and tank containers. So, buckle up, and let’s dive into the world of shipping containers!

Standard Shipping Containers

These versatile, rectangular steel boxes are the foundation of the shipping industry. Standard shipping container dimensions are the following: 20-foot and 40-foot. Let’s take a closer look at their dimensions and load capacities.

20 foot shipping container20-foot Standard Container

  • Exterior dimensions: 20 ft (L) x 8 ft (W) x 8.5 ft (H)
  • Interior dimensions: 19.4 ft (L) x 7.8 ft (W) x 7.10 ft (H)
  • Load capacity: approximately 33,000 lbs (14,969 kg)

20-foot shipping containers are ideal for transporting smaller cargoes and are often used for local shipping and storage.
40 foot shipping containers

40-foot Standard Container

  • Exterior dimensions: 40 ft (L) x 8 ft (W) x 8.5 ft (H)
  • Interior dimensions: 39.5 ft (L) x 7.8 ft (W) x 7.10 ft (H)
  • Load capacity: approximately 67,200 lbs (30,480 kg)

The 40-foot shipping container dimension is the most common in the shipping industry and can carry nearly double the cargo of a 20-foot container. It’s perfect for transporting larger shipments and is commonly used for international shipping.


Secure and tamper-resistant: A standard intermodal shipping container is equipped with robust locking systems and can be easily secured with additional locks, seals, or security devices, ensuring the safety of the cargo inside.

Cost-effective: A standard intermodal shipping container is widely available and more affordable than specialized containers, making them a cost-effective solution for shipping and storage needs.

Easy to modify: A standard intermodal shipping container can be easily modified or repurposed for various uses, such as container garages, container homes, or storage units, offering an eco-friendly and versatile solution for different applications.

Wide availability: As the most common type of intermodal shipping container, standard containers are widely available in various sizes, allowing businesses to find the right shipping container for their specific needs easily.

High Cube Shipping Container

A high cube container is similar to standard shipping containers, but they’re one foot taller, providing extra vertical space for taller or bulkier cargo.

40-foot High Cube Shipping Container

  • Exterior dimensions: 40 ft (L) x 8 ft (W) x 9.5 ft (H)
  • Interior dimensions: 39.5 ft (L) x 7.8 ft (W) x 8.10 ft (H)
  • Load capacity: approximately 67,200 lbs (30,480 kg)

These shipping container dimensions are popular for transporting furniture, machinery, and other large items that require extra height.

45-foot High Cube Shipping Container

  • Exterior dimensions: 45 ft (L) x 8 ft (W) x 9.5 ft (H)
  • Interior dimensions: 44.6 ft (L) x 7.8 ft (W) x 8.10 ft (H)
  • Load capacity: approximately 72,800 lbs (33,015 kg)

The 45-foot high cube container dimensions offer additional length and height, making it perfect for transporting longer or bulkier items that wouldn’t fit in a standard 40-foot high cube shipping container.


Higher payload capacity: A high cube container not only has extra height but also often comes with a higher payload capacity. This means they can accommodate heavier cargo loads compared to standard containers, making them more efficient for certain types of cargo.

storage containerIdeal for voluminous goods: The extra height makes a high cube container particularly suitable for transporting and storing large-volume items, such as furniture, appliances, and lightweight goods. A high cube container can help businesses save on transportation costs by maximizing the use of available space.

Taller interior clearance: The additional height in a high cube container allows for more headroom, making them more comfortable for modified living or working spaces, such as offices, workshops, or residential units.

Stackable with standard containers: A high cube container maintains the same width and length dimensions as standard containers, making them easily stackable and compatible with existing shipping container transportation infrastructure.

Freight Containers

Freight containers are essential for transporting goods worldwide. They have several shipping container dimensions and types, each designed for specific cargo requirements. In this article, we will explore the different types of freight containers and compare them with standard or common shipping container dimensions.

Dry Containers

General Purpose

Dry containers are the most common type of freight container, used for transporting general cargo that does not require temperature control. They are suitable for a wide range of goods, including electronics, clothing, furniture, and machinery.


There are two dry shipping container dimensions, the 20-foot and 40-foot being the most popular shipping container dimensions. They also come in high cube container versions, which are one foot taller than standard shipping container dimensions, providing more space.

Refrigerated Containers

Temperature Control

Also known as reefers, refrigerated containers are equipped with built-in refrigeration units to maintain specific temperatures inside the container. They are primarily used for transporting perishable goods, such as fruits, vegetables, and meat.

Sizes and Power Requirements

Reefers have similar shipping container dimensions as standard cargo containers. They require an external power source, either from the transporting vehicle or a separate generator, to maintain the refrigeration system during transit.

Open Top Containers

Oversized Cargo

Open-top containers have a removable roof, making them ideal for transporting oversized cargo, such as large machinery or timber, that cannot be loaded through standard shipping container doors.

Sizes and Features

Open-top containers are available in standard shipping container dimensions, like dry containers, and come with a tarpaulin cover to protect the cargo from weather elements during transportation.

Flat Rack Containers

Heavy and Bulky Cargo

Flat rack containers have collapsible sides and no roof, making them suitable for transporting heavy and bulky cargo, such as construction equipment, vehicles, and large industrial parts.

Sizes and Load Capacity

Flat rack containers come in standard 20-foot and 40-foot sizes, with varying load capacities depending on the specific design and materials used.

Tank Containers

Liquids and Gasses

Tank containers are designed for transporting liquids and gasses, such as chemicals, oils, and liquefied gasses. They consist of a cylindrical tank mounted on a shipping container frame, ensuring compatibility with standard shipping container handling equipment.

Sizes and Construction

Tank containers come in standard 20-foot sizes and are constructed from materials such as stainless steel or aluminum, depending on the specific cargo requirements.

Comparison with Standard or Common Containers

Standard or common containers refer to dry shipping containers and refrigerated containers, which cover the majority of cargo transportation needs. These containers are widely used due to their versatility and compatibility with various types of cargo. The other shipping container types mentioned above cater to specific transportation requirements and are considered specialized shipping containers.

Insulated Containers

Insulated containers, also known as thermal or non-operating reefers, are designed to maintain a stable temperature inside without the need for active refrigeration. Insulated shipping containers are ideal for goods that do not require precise temperature control but need protection from extreme temperature fluctuations.

Insulated Shipping Container Sizes and Construction


Insulated shipping container dimensions vary quite a lot, with the most common being:

  • 20-foot Insulated Container
  • 40-foot Insulated Container

These shipping container dimensions are similar to standard shipping container dimensions, making them suitable for intermodal transport via ship, rail, or truck.


Insulated shipping containers are constructed with:

  • Steel or aluminum frame for structural support
  • Insulated walls, floors, and ceilings made of polyurethane foam, polystyrene, or other insulating materials
  • Weatherproof exterior coating to protect against corrosion and damage from the elements
  • Interior lining made of food-grade stainless steel or other suitable materials for easy cleaning and to prevent contamination

Vacuum Insulated Containers

insulated cold storage containerVacuum-insulated containers use vacuum insulation panels (VIPs) to provide high thermal resistance, making them very effective at maintaining temperature stability. VIPs consist of a core material enclosed within a vacuum-sealed barrier. The shipping container dimensions prevent heat transfer through conduction, convection, or radiation.

Insulated Dry Containers

Insulated dry containers are a variation of standard dry containers with added insulation. They are not designed for active temperature control but can help protect cargo from extreme temperature fluctuations during transport. Their shipping container dimensions are suitable for transporting goods that do not require precise temperature control, such as canned goods, beverages, and some types of produce.

Insulated Reefer Containers (Non-Operating)

Insulated reefer containers, also known as non-operating reefers, are similar to refrigerated containers but without refrigeration units. They rely solely on insulation to maintain a stable temperature inside the container. These containers are useful for transporting temperature-sensitive cargo that does not require active cooling or heating, such as certain types of fruits and vegetables, chocolate, and wine.

Insulated Tank Containers

Insulated tank containers are a type of tank shipping container designed for transporting temperature-sensitive bulk liquids or gasses. These shipping containers have an insulated outer shell surrounding the tank to maintain a stable temperature inside. These have shipping container dimensions appropriate for transporting chemicals, oils, and other temperature-sensitive bulk materials.

Applications of Insulated Containers

Insulated containers serve various industries and applications that require temperature protection for cargo during transportation. Some common applications include:


Transporting temperature-sensitive drugs, vaccines, and other medical supplies that require stable temperatures to maintain their effectiveness and safety.

Food and Beverage

Insulated containers can be used for shipping perishable food items, such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, that do not require active refrigeration but need protection from temperature fluctuations.

Wine and Spirits

Insulated containers help maintain the quality and taste of wine and other alcoholic beverages by protecting them from extreme temperature fluctuations during transportation.

ISO Shipping Containers

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a global body that sets international standards for various industries, including shipping and containerization. The ISO shipping containers use a standard to ensure consistency, safety, and interoperability between different types of containers and transportation modes worldwide.

Importance of ISO Standards for Shipping Containers

Adherence to ISO standards for shipping containers is crucial for several reasons:


ISO shipping containers are built to withstand the stresses of transportation, handling, and stacking, minimizing the risk of accidents and damage to cargo.


Standardized shipping container dimensions and fittings enable seamless transfers between different transportation modes, such as ships, trains, and trucks, improving efficiency and reducing costs.


The ISO shipping container identification system allows for easy tracking and tracing of containers, enhancing security and providing vital information about the container’s history and ownership.


ISO standards help maintain consistency in the manufacturing of shipping container dimensions, ensuring that containers are built to the same specifications and quality levels worldwide.

Comparison Among the Containers

commercial bar containerintermodal, standard, and freight containers share many similarities and are often used interchangeably, there are subtle differences between these terms. Cargo containers refer to the large steel boxes used to transport goods, and intermodal containers are designed for seamless transfers between transportation modes.

A standard cargo shipping container is the most common type of cargo loader with regulated shipping container dimensions, and freight containers encompass all types of specialized containers used in the shipping industry.

Finding the Best Shipping Container

A flawless shipping container is essential for ensuring that the goods being transported are well-protected and arrive at their destination in the best possible condition. The following factors contribute to the quality, safety, and functionality of a flawless shipping container:

Structural Integrity

The structural integrity of a shipping container is paramount to its ability to withstand the rigors of transport and protect its contents. A flawless shipping container should possess the following qualities:

Material Quality

A flawless shipping container should be constructed from high-quality, corrosion-resistant steel or aluminum. This ensures that the shipping container dimensions remain stable and it can endure harsh weather conditions, resist rust, and maintain its structural integrity for an extended period.

Welding and Construction

Impeccable welding and construction techniques are essential for getting flawless shipping container dimensions. The shipping container should be of high quality, without visible defects such as cracks, gaps, or weak points. This helps maintain the container’s overall strength and prevents any leakage or infiltration of water, dust, or pests.

Proper Sealing and Weatherproofing

For appropriate shipping container dimensions and top-notch quality, they must be well-sealed and weather-proof to protect their contents from the elements. This includes:

Door Gaskets

The container’s door gaskets should be in excellent condition, ensuring a tight seal when the doors are closed. This prevents any moisture, air, or pests from entering the container and potentially damaging the goods inside.

Roof and Walls

The container’s roof and walls should be free of any holes or punctures, preventing water from entering and causing damage to the cargo. The container should also be watertight to protect against rain and snow during transit.


Proper ventilation is essential for maintaining the optimal temperature and humidity levels inside the container. This is especially important for shipping temperature-sensitive goods and preventing the growth of mold or mildew.

Cleanliness and Odor-free

A shipping container should be clean and free of any lingering odors from previous cargo. A thorough cleaning and proper ventilation between uses can help maintain a clean and odor-free environment inside the container.

Floor Condition

The floor plays a crucial role in supporting the cargo and shipping container dimensions, so it must be in good condition. A shipping container floor should have the following characteristics:

Solid and Undamaged

The container’s floor should be free of any damage or wear that could compromise the safety of the cargo. A solid, undamaged floor ensures the shipping container can support the weight of the cargo and withstand the stresses of transportation.

Non-slip Surface

The shipping container floor should have a non-slip surface to prevent cargo from shifting during transit, minimizing the risk of damage or accidents.


A flawless shipping container floor should be moisture-resistant to protect the cargo from water damage and minimize the risk of mold or mildew growth.

Functioning Doors and Locking Mechanisms

Shipping container cargo doors must be fully functional doors and have locking mechanisms. This ensures that the shipping container can be securely closed and locked, protecting the cargo from theft or tampering.

Door Hinges

The door hinges should be in good condition, allowing the doors to open and close smoothly and without any obstructions.

Locking Rods and Handles

Intermodal shipping container doors must have locking rods and handles in working order, ensuring that the doors can be securely fastened and locked.

Security Features

For added security, the sea container cargo doors should include additional security features, such as padlock provisions, tamper-evident seals, or lock boxes. These measures can help deter theft and ensure the integrity of the container’s contents.

Compliance with Regulations and Standards

A flawless shipping container should comply with all relevant regulations and standards, including those set forth by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Adherence to these standards ensures that the container meets the necessary size, weight, and construction requirements for safe and efficient transportation.

ISO Certification

A flawless shipping container should have a valid ISO certification, indicating that it has been inspected and found to meet the required standards for construction, materials, and performance.

Container Identification Number

The container should have a unique identification number, which can be used to track its history, ownership, and maintenance records. This number should be marked on the container’s exterior, ensuring easy identification and traceability.

Compliance with Local Shipping Regulations

It’s essential for a flawless shipping container to comply with local shipping weight regulations, ensuring that it is suitable for use in the region where it will be transported. This can help prevent overloading and potential safety issues.

Appropriate Size and Capacity

A should have metric shipping container dimensions to hold the cargo it will be transporting, ensuring that the goods can be securely stored and transported without damage. This includes:

Interior Dimensions

shipping container interiorThe container’s interior dimensions should be sufficient to accommodate the cargo, allowing for proper loading, unloading, and stacking of goods. This helps maximize the container’s capacity and minimize the risk of damage during transit.

Load Capacity

A flawless shipping container should have a suitable load capacity, ensuring that it can safely support the weight of the cargo without compromising its structural integrity


Q. How do I choose the right shipping container dimensions for my cargo?

To choose the right shipping container dimensions, consider the dimensions, weight, and type of cargo you’re shipping. If your cargo is temperature-sensitive, opt for a refrigerated container. For oversized or oddly shaped items, consider flat racks or open-top containers. Always make sure to adhere to local shipping weight regulations and maximum payload limits.

Q. Is a freight or high cube shipping container more expensive than a standard cargo container?

A High cube shipping container may be slightly more expensive than a standard cargo container due to its additional height and materials used. However, the price difference is generally minimal, and the added space and versatility provided by a high-cube shipping container can be worth the extra cost for certain types of cargo or storage needs.

Freight containers are more expensive than high cube containers due to the wider shipping container dimensions.

Q. Are there any restrictions on what can be shipped in containers?

Certain items, such as hazardous materials, have specific regulations and may require specialized containers or permits. Always consult with your shipping line and relevant authorities to ensure compliance with all regulations.

Q. What types of cargo are suitable for a high cube shipping container?

A high-cube shipping container is ideal for transporting taller or bulkier cargo that would not fit comfortably in a standard container. They are often used for shipping items such as furniture, appliances, machinery, or large-volume lightweight goods.


20 foot containerUnderstanding sea container dimensions and their various types is crucial for selecting the right container for your cargo. By familiarizing yourself with standard, high cube, refrigerated, and specialized shipping container dimensions, you can make informed decisions and ensure the safe and efficient transportation of your goods.