Shipping Container: Types, Sizes, and Dimensions

Shipping Container types and Dimensions

If you find yourself handling a significantly larger amount of freight than ever before—fantastic! Your business is thriving, and you've transitioned from LCL (less than container load) to FCL (full container load) freight. Now, you might be wondering about the right container size for your increased cargo. Are there various types of shipping containers?

Absolutely! There are a multitude of sizes and types when it comes to shipping containers. Understanding which container suits your needs best can make a significant difference when transporting goods. The dimensions and maximum weight often influence the choice of equipment.

What are the shipping containers?

Shipping containers are sturdy metal boxes designed to transport goods around the world, usually made from durable steel for long journeys. These containers have transformed the way we move freight. Whether they are loaded onto trains, trucks, or ships, these containers fit perfectly, making the transportation process more efficient and cost-effective.

This standardization is particularly important for delicate freight items, like perishable goods , ensuring they reach their destination without any issues. The uniformity of shipping containers provides a consistent and secure environment for sensitive freight, contributing to the smooth and reliable movement of goods from one place to another.

What are the top three container sizes and their dimensions?

While there are various standardized container sizes available, we've highlighted the primary three sizes here:

1. 20ft Container: The 20ft container is favored for its compact size, making it a popular choice. Additionally, it stands out as one of the more budget-friendly options available. If your cargo volume is limited, opting for the 20ft container is a suitable decision.

Length: 20 feet (6.1 meters)

Width: 8 feet (2.44 meters)

Height: 8.6 feet (2.6 meters)

2. 40ft Container: If you have goods that don't fit into a 20ft container, opting for the 40ft container is a logical choice. These containers provide increased space for accommodating larger volumes of cargo.

Length: 40 feet (12.2 meters)

Width: 8 feet (2.44 meters)

Height: 8.6 feet (2.6 meters)

3. High Cube Container: High cube containers come in three sizes: 20ft HC, 40ft HC, and 45ft HC. These containers are taller, giving you more space for your stuff. They're a good option if you need extra storage compared to the regular 20ft or 40ft sizes.

Varied Types for Varied Needs: Special Shipping Containers

In the realm of shipping, standard containers may not suffice for certain cargo, necessitating specialized solutions. These specialized containers boast unique features, including distinct door configurations, modified dimensions, or adaptations to preserve the integrity of perishable goods. Below, we delve into specific container types and their dimensions, offering insights to help you pinpoint the most suitable option for your shipping requirements.

Reefer Container

Reefer containers , designed for temperature-sensitive cargo, act as mobile refrigerators. Ideal for perishable goods such as fruits, vegetables, pharmaceuticals, and meats, these containers maintain precise temperatures between -30°C to +30°C. Reefer containers are available in 20ft, 40ft, and 40ft HC sizes.

Type 20ft 40ft 40ftHC
Internal Length 5.44m / 17.9ft 11.56m / 37.9ft 11.56m / 37.9ft
Internal Width 2.29m / 7.5ft 2.28m / 7.5ft 2.29m / 7.5ft
Internal Height 2.27m / 7.5ft 2.25m / 7.4ft 2.55m / 8.36ft
Tare Weight 3,080kg / 6,791.4 lbs 4,800kg / 10,584 lbs 4,480kg / 9,880lbs
Payload Capacity 27,400 kg / 60,471 lbs 27,700 kg / 61,078 lbs 29,520kg / 65,080 lbs
Cubic Capacity 28.3m3 / 999 cu ft 59.3 m3 / 2,093.3 cu ft 67.3 m3 / 2,380 cu ft

Double Door Container

Double door containers, equipped with doors on both ends, offer versatility in loading and unloading. This design is particularly convenient for various cargo types and comes in 20ft, 40ft, and 40ft HC sizes.

Type 20ft 40ft 40ftHC
Internal Length 5.9m / 19.4ft 12.03m / 39.5ft 12.03m / 39.5ft
Internal Width 2.35m / 7.8ft 2.4m / 7.9ft 2.34m / 7.8ft
Internal Height 2.39m / 7.9ft 2.39m / 7.9ft 2.69m / 8.9ft
Tare Weight 2,300kg / 5,071.5 lbs 3,750kg / 8,268.8 lbs 5,200kg / 11,470lbs
Payload Capacity 25,000 kg / 55,126.9 lbs 27,600kg / 61,200 lbs 28,600kg / 63,052 lbs
Cubic Capacity 33.2 m3 / 1,172 cu ft 67.7 m3 / 2,389 cu ft 76.3m3 / 2,694 cu ft

Open-top container

Open-top containers, featuring a roof covered with a tarpaulin sheet, accommodate oversized cargo. Suitable for heavy machinery, these containers are available in 20ft, 40ft, and 40ft HC sizes.

Type 20ft 40ft 40ftHC
Internal Length 5.89m / 19.4ft 12.03m / 39.5ft 12.03m / 39.5ft
Internal Width 2.35m / 7.8ft 2.4m / 7.9ft 2.35m / 7.8ft
Internal Height 2.35m / 7.8ft 2.34m / 7.8ft 2.70m / 8.10ft
Tare Weight 2,260kg / 5,982 lbs 3,980kg / 8,774 lbs 4,250kg / 9,370 lbs
Payload Capacity 28,220 kg / 62,214 lbs 26,500kg / 58,422 lbs 28,250kg / 62,281 lbs
Cubic Capacity 32.7 m3 / 1,155 cu ft 66.7 m3 / 2,356 cu ft 74.9 m3 / 2,645 cu ft

Pallet Wide Container

Pallet Wide containers, accommodating Euro pallets, offer additional width for efficient pallet storage. Available in 20ft, 40ft, and 40ft HC sizes, these containers ensure optimal space utilization.

Type 20ft 40ft 40ftHC
Internal Length 5.89m / 19.32ft 12.03m / 39.46ft 13.55m / 44.5ft
Internal Width 2.44m / 8ft 2.44m / 8ft 2.41m / 7.9ft
Internal Height 2.39m / 7.84ft 2.38m / 7.80ft 2.69m / 8.85ft
Tare Weight 2,400kg / 5,291.09 lbs 3,800kg / 8,377.56 lbs 4,280kg / 9,435.7lbs
Payload Capacity 28,080 kg / 61,905.80 lbs 26,680kg / 58,819.33 lbs 29,720kg / 65,521.38 lbs
Cubic Capacity 34.34 m3 / 1,213 cu ft 69.86 m3 / 2,467.12 cu ft 86.2m3 / 3,044.12 cu ft

Flat Rack Container:

Flat rack containers are designed for heavier and bulkier cargo that requires top or side loading. Examples of such cargo include pipes, machinery, and even buses. Flat rack containers offer versatility, allowing the loading of almost any size or type of cargo as long as it meets payload criteria.

Type 20ft 40ft
Internal Length 5.94m / 19ft 12.13m / 39.8ft
Internal Width 2.35m / 7.7ft 2.40m / 7.9ft
Internal Height 2.35m / 7.7ft 2.14m / 7ft
Tare Weight 2,360kg / 5203.8 lbs 5,000kg / 11,025 lbs
Payload Capacity 30,140 kg / 66,458.7 lbs 40,000kg / 88,200 lbs
Cubic Capacity 32.7 m3 / 1,154.3 cu ft 62.2 m3 / 2,195.7 cu ft

Side Door Container:

A side door container, often referred to as an 'open side,' is equipped with additional doors that open along its extended side. This design offers convenient accessibility, making it ideal for loading bulk cargo that cannot be accommodated through the standard end doors.

40ft Side Door Container:

Multiple workers can efficiently load or unload cargo simultaneously, thanks to the full access provided by the side doors.

Type 20ft 40ft 40ftHC
Internal Length 5.9m / 19.4ft 12.03m / 39.5ft 12.03 m / 39.5 ft
Internal Width 2.35m / 7.7ft 2.28m / 7.4ft 2.34 m / 7.8 ft
Internal Height 2.34m / 7.7ft 2.29m / 7.5ft 2.69 m / 8.9 ft
Tare Weight 2,700 kg / 5,950 lbs 4,700 kg / 10,362 lbs 5,200 kg / 11,470 lbs
Payload Capacity 27,780 kg /  61,244 lbs 27,300 kg / 60,180 lbs 28,600 kg / 63,052 lbs
Cubic Capacity 33.0 m3 / 1,165 cu ft 64 m3 / 2,2306 cu ft 76.3 m3 / 2,694 ft3

Hard Top Container:

Hard top containers, similar to open tops, feature a detachable steel roof instead of a tarpaulin sheet, allowing for easy loading and unloading of specific cargo types.

40ft Hard Top Container:

Hard top containers are particularly useful for transporting heavy and tall cargo that needs loading through the roof or doors using equipment like forklifts, cranes, or crabs.

Type 20ft 40ft 40ftHC
Internal Length 5.89m / 19.4ft 12.03m / 39.5ft 12.03m / 39.5ft
Internal Width 2.35m / 7.8ft 2.4m / 7.9ft 2.4m / 7.9ft
Internal Height 2.35m / 7.8ft 2.34m / 7.8ft 2.69 m / 8.9 ft
Tare Weight 2,260kg / 5,982 lbs 3,980kg / 8,774 lbs 5,200 kg / 11,470 lbs
Payload Capacity 28,220 kg / 62,214 lbs 26,500kg / 58,422 lbs 28,600 kg / 63,052 lbs
Cubic Capacity 32.7 m3 / 1,155 cu ft 66.7 m3 / 2,356 cu ft 76.3 m3 / 2,694 ft3

Tank Container:

Tank containers, also known as tankers or ISO tanks, play a crucial role in transporting liquids, gases, and dangerous goods.

20ft tank shipping container size:

Measure 20ft
Inside Length 6.058 m
Inside Width 2.438 m
Door Width 0m
Door Height 0m
Capacity 21,000
Tare Weight 26,290 kg

A Guide to Selecting the Right Container Types and Dimensions for Your Cargo

Nature of Cargo:

Selecting the appropriate container type and size is a critical decision to ensure efficient and economical transport, especially for perishable goods. Here are key considerations when making this choice:

Container Varieties:

Standard Dry Container: Suited for general cargo.

Reefer Container: Ideal for transporting perishable goods with temperature control.

Flat Rack Container: Suitable for oversized or heavy cargo loaded from the top or sides.

Side Door Container: Convenient for loading bulky items not fitting through standard doors.

Hard Top Container: Useful for tall or heavy cargo requiring top loading.

Container Size:

20ft, 40ft, 40ft HC (High Cube): Choose based on cargo volume and quantity. High Cube provides extra height.

Consider Combinations: Some containers, like flat racks and side door containers, come in various sizes. Opt for the size accommodating your cargo efficiently.

Weight and Volume:

Payload Capacity: Ensure the container can handle your cargo weight.

Cubic Capacity: Consider the total volume available in the container.


Loading/Unloading Ease: Containers with side doors, open tops, or specific designs may offer easier loading and unloading.

Cost and Availability:

Budget Considerations: Compare costs of different container types and stay within budget.

Availability Impact: Some specialized containers may be less common, affecting availability and pricing.

Regulatory Compliance:

Reefer for Perishables: Ensure compliance with temperature regulations if transporting perishables.

Dangerous Goods: Tank containers are designed for transporting liquids or hazardous materials.

Logistics and Transportation:

Transport Mode Compatibility: Consider the mode of transportation (ship, truck, train) and ensure the chosen container is compatible.

Handling Equipment Needs: Check if the chosen container type requires specific handling equipment.

Future Considerations:

Flexibility: Opt for containers offering flexibility for potential future cargo types.

Long-Term Requirements: Consider long-term shipping needs and choose containers aligned with those requirements.

Expert Guidance:

Consult Professionals: Seek advice from shipping experts, logistics professionals, or container suppliers for any uncertainties.

Thoroughly assessing these factors will enable an informed decision, ensuring your perishable goods are handled with care using an appropriate container, facilitating a seamless and cost-effective transportation process.


These metal boxes may seem simple, but they play a crucial role in global trade. Choosing the right containers helps us send things around the world smoothly. It's like solving a puzzle to make sure goods and ideas move easily across countries.

As you navigate the world of container shipping, remember that Citrus Freight Forwarder stands ready to offer instant quotes and help you choose the right container for your export products.