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What Are the Different Sizes and Types of Shipping Containers?

The Ultimate Guide to Sea Containers: Different Sizes & Types of Shipping Containers

shipping containers customs broker freight forwarding

Did you know that more than 80% of all goods around the globe are transported by ships? It’s no wonder there are several different cargo shipping containers available to transport such a large amount of goods, each varying in size and storage capacity. Our sea container guide below shows the different types and sizes of sea containers to help you choose the right one for your needs.

It is important to note that internal dimensions and weight capacity may vary slightly due to the container manufacturer. Additionally, local load regulations may limit the maximum gross weight allowed. Please use this information as a guide only and seek professional advice from the Custom Brokers team to confirm equipment suitability.

Dry Cargo containers

Standard Shipping Containers - Custom Brokers

Dry cargo containers are the most common type of shipping container. As the name suggests, this type of shipping container is designed to carry dry goods. They are used to haul goods that don’t require refrigeration, like construction materials. They are typically made with corrugated steel walls and a timber floor.

There are two types of dry cargo containers: general purpose and high cube. They are fitted as standard with a steel roof that creates a waterproof option for shippers. These containers are the most commonly used container in the market, typically used for shipping general freight such as cartons, pallets, bulk goods, etc. The High Cube containers are specially designed for low weight cargo that needs to be transported in large quantities with an extra foot (300mm) of height provided compared to the general purpose variety.

Food Grade versions of these containers are also available. These types of containers are generally newer and reserved specifically for food type shipments to reduce contamination from other commodities.

Here at Custom Brokers, our shipping containers are installed with multiple lashing devices on the longitudinal rails and corner posts to allow for secure fastening. In the meantime, if you need to transport awkward and excessively high loads, we also provide open top containers.

Dry Cargo Containers

Container Type20′ General Purpose40′ General Purpose40′ High Cube
Capacity (cbm)33.267.776.3
Internal Dimensions
(L x W x H) (mm)
5,900 x 2,352 x 2,39512,032 x 2,352 x 2,39512,032 x 2,350 x 2,700
Door Opening (W x H)
2,340 x 2,2922,340 x 2,2922,340 x 2,597
Max Payload Weight (kg)28,13028,75028,600

Reefer Cargo containers

Shipping Containers Reefer Cargo - Custom Brokers
Refrigerated containers or reefer containers, as the name suggests, are shipping containers used in intermodal freight transport that is refrigerated for the transportation of temperature-sensitive cargo. As such this type of shipping container is designed to keep your goods at a specific temperature and humidity level. Reefer containers are ideal for transporting food, plants, chemicals and other sensitive items. Temperature control is maintained in a range from -35°C to +30°C in an ambient environment up to 50°C using containers with low tare weight and high payload.

A reefer has an integral refrigeration unit, but it is powered by external power points, such as those found on land, on a container ship, or on the dock. During road transport, they may be powered by diesel-powered generators (“gensets”) attached to a trailer or container.

Reefer Container

Container Type20′ Reefer Container40′ Reefer High Cube
Capacity (cbm)28.167.7
Internal Dimensions
(L x W x H) (mm)
5,450 x 2,280 x 2,15911,599 x 2,290 x 2,425
Door Opening (W x H)
2,290 x 2,2642,290 x 2,557
Max Payload Weight (kg)29,14029,580

Special Cargo containers

Special cargo containers are specifically designed to haul heavy loads and oversize cargo, i.e. any cargo that can not be loaded into six-sided shipping containers simply because it is too large or awkward to handle. This type of shipping container is equipped with built-in security features to ensure the safety of the cargo. Special cargo containers are made of thicker steel and often have reinforced doors. 

Due to its nature and size, the special cargo is normally carried in Flatracks or Open Top containers. These types of special equipment are charged at a higher rate than that of dry cargo containers due to their higher maintenance and manufacturing costs.

Open Top

open top shipping containers - customs broker

Open-top containers are used to load cargo that cannot be easily loaded through the door and must be loaded from the top. They may also be used to carry items that are particularly high.

Open Top Containers

Container Top20′ open top40′ open top40′ Open Top High Cube
Capacity (cbm)32.566.874.9
Internal Dimensions
(L x W x H) (mm)
5,895 x 2,350 x 2,34012,029 x 2,350 x 2,34412,029 x 2,352 x 2,649
Door Opening (W x H)
2,338 x 2,2802,340 x 2,2762,352 x 2,570
Max Payload Weight (kg)30,05028,45028,250


flatrack shipping container - customs broker
Flatracks are built with thick timber boards across the base and reinforced anchorage points rated for up to 5000kg across the length of the base. Flat racks are a specialised option and are typically used to transport heavy, overwidth, and/or over height cargoes. 

Forklifts or cranes are typically required to load cargo onto a flatrack, and chains or straps used to secure the cargo in place. A flat rack is typically used to carry oversized or overweight cargo such as large machinery, trucks, timber packs, structural steel sections, helicopters, and large reels. Certain types of collapsible flat racks have foldable ends, which are known as Collapsible Flat Racks. 


Container Type20′ Flatrack40′ Flatrack high Cube
Internal Dimensions
(L x W x H) (mm) – In Gauge
5,638 x 2,438 x 2,23311,652 x 2,438 x 2,245
Max Payload Weight (kg)31,26044,050

Here at Custom Brokers, we offer a variety of container types to suit any cargo!

Are you looking to ship products and goods all around the world? The world of cargo shipping is incredibly diverse and complex. With so many different types of containers out there, it can be difficult to know which one is right for your company. That’s why it’s important to work with a trusted and experienced broker. A broker is an individual or company that specialises in arranging shipping and logistics for other companies. 

An experienced broker like Custom Brokers can help you navigate the sea container shipping process and find the container that is right for your needs. All our containers meet ISO standards as well as the latest safety regulations. Quality equipment is guaranteed by a worldwide inspection procedure, which is routinely inspected and certified by a certification society. With our expertise, you can be sure that you are selecting the perfect shipping container for your next shipment. If you need special equipment for your shipment, please contact one of our customer service representatives here.

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