Types of Ocean Freight Containers and How to Choose the Right One for Your Shipment?

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Types of Ocean Freight Containers and How to Choose the Right One for Your Shipment?
Aug 31, 2021

Shipping your goods to a new destination can be stressful. If you are shipping through the road, you want the best truck and a CDL-trained driver, and when sending through the sea, you try to choose the best container. It would help if you considered all the possible variables that could arise and find the best way to ensure your shipment arrives at its final destination in one piece. One of these variables is choosing the right ocean freight container for your ship, which can be confusing with so many different options out there. To help you make this decision easier, we'll break down some types of containers below and how to choose one. 


For businesses shipping by ocean freight, there are numerous options when choosing a shipping container. These are some common types of containers:

Open tops

This is the most common type. General goods and non-hazardous materials get transported through the open-top containers. Open tops are suitable for liquid, bulk, or palletized loads. They're easy to stack on cargo ships because they don't take up much room. Because it's the most common type of container, it is also the least expensive option.

Open tops are just as they sound—they have no lid. The top allows for ventilation; however, you can cover an open top with a tarp if the weather turns bad or your load becomes exposed to rain. Tarping an open-top is not recommended for temperature-sensitive products.

Open tops come in three sizes.

Standard (10 Foot), Extra Large (20 Foot), and Jumbo (40 Foot). Jumbos are mainly used for oversize loads or special equipment items that require maximum space. Open top containers can be converted to open racks—a popular option for heavy, bulky freight.

Open racks

These are commonly known as Double Decker. This type of container is designed to transport goods requiring ventilation and maximum exposure to the atmosphere, such as food products. It can also be used for oversize loads. Open racks have a low center of gravity, allowing them to stack easily on ships and trucks without tipping over. They're also called Conex Boxes or Double Decker.

Open tops with a tarp

This option is recommended for temperature-sensitive items like flowers, produce, and dairy products. Tarping an open top allows you to control the temperature and reduce exposure to UV light, speeding up spoilage in perishable goods. A downside of using this option is that it can be more difficult to load heavy or bulky products if there are no sides.

Open tops with a lid

Known as weather-resistant containers, they're designed for temperature-sensitive materials like food and pharmaceuticals. Lids control the climate inside the container minimizing damage caused by extreme temperatures. The container keeps harmful UV rays from damaging the goods.

Lids have vents to provide fresh air for temperature-sensitive cargo while keeping rain, snow, and wind outside the container. They're an excellent option for dry, high density, or heavy products that are prone to damage from weather exposure. Lids are available in two sizes: Standard (10 Foot) and Jumbo (40 Foot).

A standard ocean freight container's approximate measurements are:

Height - 8 feet (2.4 Meters) *

Width - 8 feet (2.4 Meters) *

Length - 40 or 45 feet (12.5 or 13.5 meters)

How to choose a container

1-If your freight is oversize or overweight, the container will be longer than 40 feet.

2-If your freight requires a special handling procedure like refrigeration, it may have additional requirements that the shipping company and carrier must meet.

3-Ask for a copy of your marine bill of lading, outlining any special conditions placed on the freight during transport.

4-If your shipment is out of the ordinary, we strongly recommend you contact your shipping company or freight forwarder to discuss delivery requirements and any additional charges before it's too late.

5-It's always a good idea to measure your freight or consult with a cargo expert to ensure that you get the right type of container for your unique shipping needs.

It is essential to know what type of ocean container will be best for your shipment when shipping freight. The wrong choice can lead to costly delays and additional expenses that may not have been anticipated while placing the order. We hope this article helps people make a better decision about their next shipment by providing an overview of some common types of containers available and how they work so individuals can find the right one for them.