What are the Different Types and Sizes of Freight Container?

Understanding what the types, sizes, and classifications are for freight containers can help you plan  your shipping journey.

At Allegro Freight Forwarding, we’re used to handling shipments of all different shapes, sizes, and requirements. We’ve put together this article to explain what the most common sizes of freight container are, explain terms that might be used in the industry, and offer advice on choosing the right container for your assets.

Find out directly about the types and sizes of freight container available to you – get in touch with the team at Allegro Freight Forwarding.

The Type and Measurements of a Shipping Container

To begin, we’ve put together a collection of the types and sizes of freight container that are commonly used to ship goods both domestically within the UK and internationally across the world.

This should serve as the foundations for ensuring you get the right container to suit the needs of your assets while also providing information on the types of container that are out there.

Types of Freight Container

Open Top. These containers can allow overfilling and provide an easier way to fill the container by crane.

Closed Top. Protect the contents of the container from the elements with closed-top containers – a common choice for international shipping.

High Cube. For larger freight or more efficient space usage, high-cube containers offer a greater height allowing for more upwards storage and the shipment of taller goods.

Heavy Goods. For particularly heavy assets, special containers might be needed to offer robust support when transporting, loading, and unloading.

Refrigeration. Perishable goods like food and medical may need refrigeration to ensure they’re kept at specific heats when being transported, and this must be reflected in the type of container you choose.

Common Sizes for Shipping Containers

The actual measurements of a shipping container can vary but are usually within a similar range and most shipping containers are based off the same international standardisation measures. The name of a shipping container – 20ft, 40ft, and so on – is based on the length of the container. A 20ft container, for example, will be around 20ft long with some differences depending on manufacturer.

20ft – a common size for smaller shipments. This container can usually carry around 20,000kg of goods, with internal measurements of approximately 6m length, 2.35m width, and 2.35m height.

40ft – the largest size of freight container commonly available. These containers typically carry up to 30,000kg of goods, with internal measurements of around 12m length, 2.35m width, and 2.35m height.

Other sizes can also include 8ft and 10ft containers, but 20ft and 40ft containers are the most common ones that you’ll see being used for freight transportation around the world. For smaller quantities, consider groupage and consolidated transportation.

With all of these containers, it is important to note that the sizes and weights supplied by the manufacturer may differ from the values shown above. These are just general estimates so you can get an idea of how much a shipping container can hold.

Not sure about what container to pick? We’ll do it for you. Contact us today to discuss your needs.

Common Incoterms for Freight Classifications

A couple of ways in which you might have heard freight being classified as are “LCL” and “FCL”.

LCL means “less-than-container load”. This type of shipment will take up less than the full storage capacity of its container, whichever size that container may be, meaning it will likely be grouped with other goods. This is a good way to increase the economic viability of small shipments via sea.

FCL means ‘full-container-load”. This type of shipment takes up the full capacity of its container, giving a dedicated space to your goods. For bulk goods or wares with particular considerations like hazard ratings, fragility, or refrigeration needs, FCL can be the best option for moving freight by sea.

Both of these incoterms apply to sea freight only. Other transportation methods have their own ways of referring to freight.

For example air freight offers “groupage” for smaller shipments that are consolidated with other orders, or “dedicated” for quick delivery of larger shipments. Road freight, on the other hand, uses incoterms similar to sea freight – “LTL” and “FTL”. These mean less-than-truck-load and full-truck-load respectively and have similar meanings to the sea freight versions.

Learn more about FCL and LCLs and choosing the right one for your business needs >

How to Choose the Right Shipping Container

Choosing the right container for your shipment is important to ensuring you get the most reliable and comprehensive process when shipping your goods. This involves considering the different aspects of your freight like size, quantity, weight, and special requirements, and choosing a container to match.

There are companies like freight forwarders out there who can help ensure you get the correct shipping container for your goods. If you want to do it yourself, however, we’ve put together a list of steps to consider:

  1. Choose the classification of your shipment – either a full load, or partial.
  2. Identify any requirements for your freight to see if you need special considerations.
  3. Determine what size of container you need to fit your goods.
  4. Organise loading, unloading, transportation and logistics.

You can skip the list by working with a trusted freight forwarder like Allegro. Make your shipping process as seamless as possible – we handle all the details, leaving you to get on with managing your business.

Find out more about us with our article explaining the role of a freight forwarder >

What does the Colour of a Shipping Container Mean?

The main reason that shipping containers have different colours is due to brands. Different manufacturers, shippers, and leasing companies will often have their own unique colour that they paint their shipping containers.

Leasing companies in particular are prone to using darker shipping containers. These containers suffer less colour saturation from the passing of time, meaning they show their age less and are therefore more appealing for customers to lease.

There can be meaning assigned to the colour of a freight, however. For example, a container being white typically signifies that it holds perishable goods that require special handling considerations or measures such as refrigeration.

Choose the right freight methods for your shipment – see our full range of services >

Streamline Your Supply Chain with Allegro Freight Forwarding

Make things easier on yourself by working with a freight forwarder like Allegro. We offer a streamlined shipping process that lets you get on with running your operations.

Start your shipping journey off right – get in touch with us today. Our friendly team will listen to your needs and provide the best forwarding solution to suit your freight. For more information on what we do, read on with a related article.

Learn the difference between logistics and freight forwarding, alongside the benefits of integrating them >