ISO or intermodal containers are used for the intermodal transport of freight. They are manufactured according to specifications from the International Orginization for Standardization (ISO) and are suitable for multiple transportation methods such as truck, rail, or ship. These regulations define a shipping container that meets size, strength, and durability requirements. The basis of these regulations is to guarantee that the container can withstand extreme environments endured during transport as well as possess the structural integrity needed to be lifted by cranes or other heavy equipment.

 

 

ISO Containers Selection Guide

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Container safety certificate (CSC)

 

ISO containers include a container safety certificate (CSC) issued by the manufacturer that must be renewed every 30 months by a certified inspector. If necessary, an approved continuous examination program (ACEP) can be used in place of this procedure.

 

ISO Containers Selection Guide

Image Credit: ContainersforSale

 

Selection Criteria

 

When selecting an ISO container the most important criteria to consider are the type and dimensions of the container. It is also important to understand the codes used to mark and identify the container as well as features that may be available.

 

Types of ISO Containers

 

There are several basic types of ISO containers including flat racks, open-top, dry freight, insulated, reefer, and tank containers.

 

Flat racks and platforms are ISO containers that are used to transport heavy machinery. They do not have side walls, but may have end bulkheads and are often collapsible.

 

ISO Containers Selection Guide

Image Credit: flatrackcontainer.org

 

Open-top containers are shaped like a box and loaded from either the top or end. They are designed to carry heavy, tall, or hard to load materials such as coal or grain.   

 

ISO Containers Selection Guide

Image Credit: Shipping Containers24

 

Dry freight or cube containers are front loaded, completely enclosed and suitable for general-purpose transportation.

 

 ISO Containers Selection Guide

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Insulated or thermal containers are suitable for transporting chilled and frozen goods, as well as temperature-sensitive materials and products. They have insulated walls, but are not refrigerated.

 ISO Containers Selection Guide

Image Credit: Coastal Container

 

Reefer or refrigeration containers are temperature controlled containers that have an integral refrigeration unit. They are used to ship and transport perishables or other items that require a temperature controlled atmosphere.

ISO Containers Selection Guide

Image Credit: Cold Box

 

Tank containers are built to the same standard dimensions as other ISO containers, but are cylindrical vessels mounted in a rectangular steel framework. Typically, these containers are used to transport liquid or bulk materials.

ISO Containers Selection Guide

Image Credit: Tank Services Inc.

 

Dimensions

 

ISO containers are the ideal shipping container as their dimensions are regulated by the International Standards Organization (ISO). These regulations allow ISO containers to use space as efficiently as possible regardless of the method of transport.

 

Height

Standard ISO containers measure 8 ft. 6 in., but they are available in several discrete heights measuring from 4 ft. to 9 ft. 6 in.  Containers that measure 9 ft. 6 in. tall are called extended height or high cube containers while 4 ft. and 4 ft. 6 in. containers may be referenced as half height containers.

 

Width

The majority of all ISO containers measure 8 ft. or 2,438 mm wide. ISO Containers that exceed this dimension are grouped into two other size ranges. Alpha characters C, D, E, and F identify containers that are greater than 2,438 mm, but less than 2,500 mm. Containers that exceed 2,500 mm are referenced by L, M, N, and P.

 

Length

The most common lengths are 20 and 40 ft. Other lengths include 24, 28, 44, 45, 46, 53, and 56 ft.

 

Coding, Identifying, and Marking

 

The standard used to identify intermodal (shipping) containers is ISO 6346:1995. This standardized identification system is used to give each container a unique marking. The code can be further broken up into three parts an ISO 6346 (BIC) code, a size and type code, and additional optional markings.

 

ISO Containers Selection Guide

Image Credit: The Geography of Transport Systems

 

ISO 6346 (BIC) Codes

 

The ISO 6346 (BIC) code identifies the owner of the container, the product group, and contains a unique serial number and check digit that identifies the container. The company code or owner code is the first three alpha characters. This abbreviation is registered with an international organization, Bureau International des Containers et du Transport Intermodal, ensuring every company has a unique code. The product group U is used for all intermodal containers while J is used for equipment attachments and Z designates chassis or frames used to carry intermodal containers. The serial number identifies an individual container and is cross referenced with the check digit.

 

ShippingConatainers24

Image Credit: ShippingContainers24

Size and Type Codes

 

The size and type code is a four character code that represents the length, height, width, and type of container. The first character specifies the length, the second the height and width, and the last two characters specify the type of container as shown in the table below. 

  

Code Group code Type Type code Principal characteristics
 

 G  GP  Unventilated general purpose container  G0  Openings at one or both ends
       G1  Vents in upper part of cargo space
       G2  Openings at one or both end(s), plus "full" openings at one or both sides
       G3  Openings at one or both end(s), plus "partial" openings at one or both sides
       G4  Spare
       G5  Spare
       G6  Spare
       G7  Spare
       G8  Spare
       G9  Spare

 V  VH  General purpose containers with ventilation  V0  Non-mechanical ventilation at the lower and upper parts of the cargo space
       V1  Spare
       V2  Mechanical ventilation installed in the container
       V3  Spare
       V4  Mechanical ventilation installed outside the container
       V5  Spare
       V6  Spare
       V7  Spare
       V8  Spare
       V9  Spare

 B  BU  Dry bulk containers, non-pressure-resistant  B0  Closed
       B1  Airtight
   BK  Pressurized  B2  Spare
       B3  Horizontal discharge, test pressure 150 kPa
       B4  Horizontal discharge, test pressure 265 kPa
       B5  Tipping discharge, test pressure 150 kPa
       B6  Tipping discharge, test pressure 265 kPa
       B7  Spare
       B8  Spare
       B9  Spare

 S  SN  Named cargo containers  S0  Livestock container
       S1  Automobile container
       S2  Living fish container
       S3  Spare
       S4  Spare
       S5  Spare
       S6  Spare
       S7  Spare
       S8  Spare
       S9  Spare

 R  RE  Thermal containers
- refrigerated
- refrigerated and heated
- self powered refrigerated/heated
 R0  Mechanically refrigerated
   RT    R1  Mechanically refrigerated and heated
   RS    R2  Mechanically refrigerated
       R3  Mechanically refrigerated and heated
       R4  Spare
       R5  Spare
       R6  Spare
       R7  Spare
       R8  Spare
       R9  Spare

 H  HR  Thermal containers
- refrigerated and/or heated with removable equipment
 H0  Refrigerated and/or heated with removable equipment located externally, coefficient of heat transfer K=0.4 W/(m2.K)
       H1  Refrigerated and/or heated with removable equipment located internally
       H2  Refrigerated and/or heated with removable equipment located externally, coefficient of heat transfer K=0.7 W/(m2.K)
       H3  Spare
       H4  Spare
   HI    H5  Insulated, coefficient of heat transfer K=0.4 W/(m2.K)
       H6  Insulated, coefficient of heat transfer K=0.7 W/(m2.K)
       H7  Spare
       H8  Spare
       H9  Spare

 U  UT  Open-top containers  U0  Opening(s) at one or both end(s)
       U1  Opening(s) at one or both end(s) plus removable roof in end frame
       U2  Opening(s) at one of both end(s) plus opening(s) on one or both sides
       U3  Opening(s) at one or both end(s) plus opening(s) on one or both sides plus removable top members
       U4  Opening(s) at one or both end(s) plus opening(s) on one side plus full openings on the other side
       U5  Full, solid side and end walls (no doors)
       U6  Spare
       U7  Spare
       U8  Spare
       U9  Spare

 P  PL  Platform (container)
- platform based on containers with incomplete superstructure
- fixed
- folding
- platform based containers with complete superstructure
 P0  Platform
   PF    P1  Platform with two complete, fixed end walls
       P2  Platform with fixed posts, either free-standing or with removable top members
   PC    P3  Platform with folding complete end walls
       P4  Platform with folding posts, either free-standing or with removable top members
   PS    P5  Platform, open at the top and ends (skeletal)
       P6  Spare
       P7  Spare
       P8  Spare
       P9  Spare

 T  TN  Tank container for non-dangerous liquids  T0  Minimum pressure 45 kPa
       T1  Minimum pressure 150 kPa
       T2  Minimum pressure 265 kPa
   TD  Tank container for dangerous liquids  T3  Minimum pressure 150 kPa
       T4  Minimum pressure 265 kPa
       T5  Minimum pressure 400 kPa
       T6  Minimum pressure 600 kPa
   TG  Tank container for gases  T7  Minimum pressure 910 kPa
       T8  Minimum pressure 2 200 kPa
       T9  Minimum pressure (yet to be assigned)

 A  AS  Air/surface containers  A0  


Image Credit: SMDG

 

Features

 

IHS Standard Expert allows you to access all types of industrial standards.ISO containers are available with many special features. Some containers are airtight or stackable. Others are designed for storing and moving flammable, corrosive, explosive, or other hazardous materials. Containers that are shielded against electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI) are often used in the transportation of electric and electronic products. Vented ISO containers with ducts along the side panels and top and bottom rails are suitable for replacing warm, moist air with colder, ambient air. Often, desiccants such as silica-gel are used in the transportation of high-moisture products such as coffee beans or other perishables.

 

Resources

 

ISO Shipping Containers

 

The Geography of Transport Systems - Container Identification System

 

Bureau International des Containers - Presentation of the BIC Codes

 

International Standards Organization - Freight Containers

 

Container Alliance - Why People Buy ISO Containers

                                                                   

Read user Insights about ISO Containers