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The market, relationships, agreements, society and its dynamics are all based on a logistical structure. For its part, the container has proven to be the most successful agent of this logistical access to the world.

Superficially speaking, sea containers are nothing more than a union of steel sheets. But that bundle of sheets ensures the quality and reliability of goods by guaranteeing the availability of goods to meet the needs of demand.

Container shipments add value to logistics solutions by promoting the creation of more efficient organizations, strengthening the timeliness of deliveries and maximizing the assurance that goods will be available on time, in the space and under the conditions required by customers*.

*Logistics of transporting goods in sea containers – Alexander Eslava Sarmiento

History of containers

Photo: Maersk

Malcolm P. McLean in 1955, was a North Carolina trucking entrepreneur who bought a steamship company and came up with the idea of loading whole truck trailers onto ships, with their contents still inside, with the intention of lower costs and greater efficiency.

He soon realized that it was much faster and easier to lift a container full of goods and load it directly onto a ship than to load the contents in smaller parts. This gave rise to the so-called intermodality, in other words, the articulation between different modes of transport using a single loading measure, in order to more quickly and efficiently carry out the transshipment operations of materials and goods.

It simplified the logistics process and led to a revolution in freight transport and international trade.

Sea container types and sizes

Contenedor Dry

Dry container

This is the most common type of container in world transport. About 90% of the goods that are shipped by sea are carried in this type of container. They are airtight and unventilated containers.

Standard dimensions with a width of 2.40m and a height of 2.60m. There are two typical models according to length, 20 feet and 40 feet which are equivalent to 6 and 12 meters respectively. 

contenedor flat rack

Flat Rack Container

It is a container without a roof and without side walls. They are suitable for the transport of heavy cargo, as well as goods that need a special load due to their dimensions, such as pipes and machinery.

High Cube Container

contenedor high cube

They are like dry containers but have an extra 12 inches (approximately 30 cm) in height in comparison. High Cube Dry containers are ideal for light cargo, bulky or oversized goods.

They are 9’6» (2.896 meters) high and the Dry Van 40′ containers are 8’6» (2.591 meters).

Open Top Container

contenedor open top

They have a removable canvas roof instead of a solid roof. They are specially designed for transporting heavy or large loads such as lumber or scrap metal, loaded from the top.

20 and 40 feet.

Open Side Container

contenedor open side

Made to facilitate the loading of goods through the side doors of the container. They are very useful to load long goods that cannot be loaded through the normal doors or to be able to reach the goods at the bottom without having to remove all the goods in front of them.

There are 20 and 40 feet.

Reefer Container

contenedor-frigorífico-o-reefer

This type of container is used to transport goods that require controlled temperature conditions in transit either hot or cold. They can maintain the temperature of the goods from -30ºC to +40ºC. Reefer containers are equipped with a refrigeration unit that is connected to the ship’s, port terminals’ and trucks’ power supply.

contenedor-tank

Tank Container

Used to transport liquids in bulk. It is a tank contained within a structure of steel beams that make it the same dimensions as a standard container.

Foldable or collapsible Container

contenedor-plegable
Zbox container

The foldable container has the same dimensions and characteristics as a dry container. In this case, the difference is the folding and unfolding function. When folded, up to 5 more containers can be stacked on top of it.

Use of containers

Transport

The maritime container is a cargo container that allows the storage of goods to be transported by trucks, trains and ships, thus enabling intermodal transport. They are usually used to transport heavy materials or palletized goods.

Construction

In recent years, construction companies have found a new use for containers.

Container architecture is a construction process based on the assembly of modular elements, maritime containers. 

Construction with containers has become one of the major milestones of this experimental architecture. Encouraged by a low budget, reduced execution times, and certain sustainable requirements.

News and curiosities about sea containers

  • The sea containers are constructed of high-strength steel and, due to their robustness, can handle the wear and tear of a 3,000-mile sea voyage and the movement of a crane while in port.
  • The shortage of containers generated by the pandemic has left millions of dollars in losses in different sectors.
  • The cranes that move the containers are between 30 and 50 meters high. They move about forty containers in an hour.
  • The engine of a container ship has 1,000 times more power than that of a passenger car. The largest ships can carry more than 11,000 containers.
  • 612 containers are lost at sea each year.
  • The shortage of containers has increased ocean freight rates tenfold, affecting the entire supply chain.
  • Every minute, 16 million containers cross the sea on 5,000 ocean-going container ships.

Camila Hurtado

Coordinadora de proyectos subvencionados y de marketing en Navlandis.

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