5 Tips for Choosing the Right Shipping Container for Your Cargo

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Shipping Container

Shipping containers are the engines of the global economy, transporting millions of tons of cargo across the seas each year. 

However, not all containers are created equal, and selecting the right one can mean the difference between your cargo arriving safely or suffering losses. 

In this guide, we will walk you through five essential tips to consider when selecting a container for your cargo, ensuring that your goods are protected, and your business keeps moving.

Consider Your Cargo Type

One of the initial and most crucial steps in selecting the right shipping container is understanding the nature of your cargo. 

Different Container Types

  • Dry containers: The most common type for general cargo, available in lengths of 20 feet and 40 feet.
  • Flat rack containers: Suitable for heavy or large loads that need open sides for loading, such as machinery or vehicles.
  • Open-top containers: These eliminate the roof for top-loading; ideal for odd-sized goods or those that need to be lifted by crane.
  • Refrigerated containers: Also known as reefers, these maintain specific temperatures and are perfect for perishables like food and pharmaceuticals.

When considering your cargo type, it’s also essential to Compare shipping containers to determine which one aligns with your requirements most accurately. Look beyond the basic features of dry, flat rack, open-top, and refrigerated containers. 

Evaluate the capacity, dimensions, and loading capabilities of each container against the specific needs of your cargo. 

Size Matters

The rule of picking a shipping container is to consider the size of your cargo. Overloading is not an option, as it can lead to penalties or damage during shipping. Under-utilization is also a risk, as you might be paying to ship air.

Tips for matching container size to cargo volume

  • 20-foot containers: These are excellent for small shipments or when cargo density is extremely high.
  • 40-foot containers: Offering twice the space compared to a 20-foot container, these are better for larger volumes or less dense cargo.
  • High-cube containers: With the same footprint as their standard counterparts but an extra foot in height, high-cubes are ideal if your cargo item is slightly taller.

Material and Durability

The material of the container holds the key to durability during transit. Three common choices are steel, aluminum, and fiberglass, each with its strengths and weaknesses.

Choosing between steel, aluminum, or fiberglass containers

  • Steel containers: Most traditional and robust, they are ideal for general-purpose use and can withstand harsh conditions.
  • Aluminum containers: Lighter in weight and resistant to corrosion. They are best suited for moving heavy machines or other machinery parts.
  • Fiberglass containers: Highly resistant to rust and corrosion, they are a newer innovation catering to more lightweight and less robust cargo types.

Special Features

If your cargo requires special conditions, don’t settle for a standard container. Special features can offer enhanced protection and security.

Special features may be:

  • For temperature-sensitive items, a refrigerated container (reefer) is a must.
  • Goods that need optimal airflow might require a ventilated container to prevent moisture build-up.
  • Bulky or odd-shaped goods are best suited for an open-top container.

Cost vs. Value

While it’s tempting to cut costs, skimping on the right container could lead to damage and additional expenses down the line. Be sure to weigh the upfront cost with the value it provides for your cargo protection.

Opting for a standard dry container might save money, but it may not be the most cost-effective solution for certain types of cargo. Also, investing in a high-quality specialized container could prevent losses due to spoilage or damage.