What do ISO, Conex, Sea Can, intermodal and c-Can all have in common? They all describe the rigid, corrugated steel containers used for shipping goods around the world.
Although the concept has been around for a long time, cargo containers really only started to come into play for transportation when, in 1952, the USA army developed the modular Container Express (CONEX) box system. The addition of rings in each corner of the container for easier lifting by crane, and the introduction of ISO standards after 1968 allowed for a consistent and smooth transition from loading to unloading, throughout the world, and was a major contributor towards the increase of global trade (and decreasing costs of transportation).
Modern Conex Containers
Although shipping containers do come in a range of sizes, one of the two most common size is the 20’ general purpose container. These are designed to ship dry goods, but because of their smaller size they have a higher payload than the 40’ containers. Generally, the 20’ Conex container has doors fitted at one end and is made of Corten; often they have a plywood floor that can be treated. Interestingly in comparison to the smooth sided vans and trucks used on the road, the corrugated sides of a shipping container can cause up to 10% fuel economy loss. However, their water tight and air tight properties make them idea for transporting goods over water.
COR-TEN is a generic trademark for the mix of steel alloys used to create corrugated weathering steel; this metal does not need to be painted to weatherproof it (learn more here).
Safety Approval Plate
In order to be used to transport cargo internationally all shipping containers need to have a “CSC Safety-approval Plate”. This came into international regulation in 1972. A CSC will generally have the age, registration number, dimensions and maximum stacking capability of the unit, as well as other essential information.
ISO 6346 Code
Whether you are purchasing a new or used Conex container that has moved through international waters, you will find each container has a unique serial number, called a BIC-Code (or the ISO 6346 Code). This provides information about the owner or operator and can provide tracking information that keeps record of maintenance, change of owner, when it was first used etc.
Buying a Shipping Container
In order to buy a shipping container, there are several options for you to purchase, each with pros and cons:
- Look on Craig’s list (or similar)
Pros: Probably cheap.
Cons: No Guarantee. You will need to arrange transportation yourself.
- Call shipping yards
Pros: Potentially a great range
Cons: You will need to negation with a transport firm who is able to take cargo from the yard. Not necessarily cheaper.
- Use a reputable seller
Pros: Containers should come with a warranty, transport should be included in price
Cons: You may need to shop around in order to find a good deal.
Choosing a Company to Buy Your Container With
A quick search on Google will bring up a variety of different companies claiming to specialize in the sale of shipping containers, so when choosing who to buy from, a few things to consider:
- Do they physically have the inventory they say they do?
- Do they include applicable taxes in the price?
- Do they have a clear rating system to show the quality of the container?
- Are they able to deliver to you?
- Do they guarantee their containers?
- Do they have someone you can speak to or are they email only?
- Do they talk about safety standards or mention CSC plates?
Do you want a 20’ or 40’ Container?
You may look at the price difference between the two most popular sizes and decide that you could step up to the next size as a way of future proofing your storage needs. However, you probably considered the 20’ in the first place for good reason beyond just price, those reasons likely still form the basis of your need for a shipping container. Looking at the specifications can should you why a 20’ container might suit your needs better:
Common 20’ Container
Common 40’ Container
|8-ft (2.44m)||8-ft (2.44m)|
|8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)||8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)|
|20-ft (6.1 m)||40-ft (12.19 m)|
Max Gross Weight
|66,139 lb (30,400 kg)||66,139 lb (30,400 kg)|
|4,850 lb (2,200 kg)||8,380 lb (3,800 kg)|
Payload (or Net Weight)
|61,289 lb (28,200 kg)||57,759 lb (26,200 kg)|
*measurements are generalized and may not apply to the container you are reviewing Click here for more detailed specifications.
What you will need to consider before getting your 20ft Conex box is what you will be storing in it, how much that will weigh, and where your container will live.
- Is a 20ft container more suitable for the space you are looking at?
- Is the ground strong enough to support the weight of a fully loaded box (this is the max gross weight)?
A 20ft container has less cubic capacity but is able to hold greater weight than a 40ft container. What this means is that if you are using your container to store all your off-season sports gear this might not be a consideration, but if you are wanting to store all your building supplies in preparation for a big landscaping job you might need to think more on the weight that this will amount to.
Buying a metal shipping container isn’t really all that difficult. But you do need to be clear about what your needs are and what you will need to do to meet those needs. Everything is essential when looking for new shipping containers for sale
Once you have those guidelines sorted then you simply need to work with a company that makes purchasing your container a simple matter of choosing your Conex box, paying for it, and waiting for it to be delivered. While you’re waiting, start clearing the area where you will be putting your shipping container – including any areas that will provide access to the delivery truck.
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