Industrial Containers Information



Industrial containers are used for containing materials, shipping and storage. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit many applications and many industries.   


Types of Industrial Containers


There are many different industrial container options available depending on the application:


  • A bag is typically a flexible container that may be closed for holding, storing, or carrying materials.  Pouches are three-sided bags with a flat bottom to facilitate standing for display.   
  • A basin or trough is a long shallow vessel with sloping or curving sides for holding liquids or solids. 
  • A basket is a shaped container that typically has handles.
  • A bin is a large box, frame, or enclosed place used for storage.
  • Attached-Lid TotesA box is a rigid, typically rectangular, container with or without a cover.  A tote is an example of a box.  Bulk boxes, also known as Gaylords, are large boxes for storing bulk materials and are sized to match standard pallet sizes for easy transport.
  • A bucket, basket or pail is typically a cylindrical vessel for catching, holding, or carrying liquids or solids.
  • A crate is an open box with slats, or a protective case or framework for shipping.
  • Cylindrical containers include cans, tubes, bottles and vials
  • Drums and barrels are large cylindrical industrial containers, usually for moving or storing liquids. 
  • An IBC is an Intermediate Bulk Container.  They have a capacity of not more than 3 cubic meters and are designed for mechanical handling.  This includes Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers (FIBCs) such as bulk bags or super sacks. 
  • Tank containers have a cylindrical tank mounted within a rectangular steel framework.  These containers are built to the same standard dimensions as other ISO containers.  They are used to transport liquid or bulk materials.

Containers can also be application specific such as:


  • Insulated or thermal containers which are used to transport of chilled and frozen goods.  They are also used for temperature sensitive materials and products. Insulated containers protect the contents from the environment. 
    • Refrigerated, or reefer containers are used to transport of chilled and frozen goods.  They are also used for temperature sensitive materials and products where a steady temperature must be maintained during shipping. 
    • A cooler or insulated container is used for storing or transporting of perishable goods, such as food or blood. The container walls are insulated, but the container does not have a refrigeration unit.
  • Waterproof containers which protect the contents from damages due to water or humidity.
  • Collapsible flat rack containers which are open sided containers with end bulkheads that can be folded down when the rack is empty. 
  • General purpose containers are enclosed, box type containers used for general purpose transportation. These industrial containers are also called cube containers.  Standard heights for dry containers are 8 feet 6 inches, but they can be manufactured to an extended height of 9 feet 6 inches, and referred to as high cube containers.  Cargo is loaded from the end of the container.  Flat racks and platforms have no sidewalls, but may have end bulkheads, and are used to transport heavy machinery.  
  • Open top containers are box type containers with no top.  These containers can be used to carry heavy, tall or hard to load cargo, and bulk material, such as coal or grain.  Cargo can be loaded from the top or end of the container.     

Product Specifications


Important specifications when considering industrial containers are volume capacity, tare weight, diameter, length, width and height. 


  • Volume capacity- volume capacity is the maximum volume that containers are designed to hold.  
  • Tare weight- tare weight is the weight of the container when empty. 
  • Length- depth or length is the distance from the front opening to the back. The most common lengths for ISO / intermodal containers are 20 feet and 40 feet.  Less common lengths include 24, 28, 44, 45, 46, 48, 53, and 56 feet. 
  • Width refers to the outside width or diameter of the container. The standard width of ISO containers is 8 feet. 

  • Height refers to the outside height of the container. Standard heights for ISO containers are 8 feet 6 inches, and 9 feet 6 inches.



Industrial containers can be made from many different types of materials. Container material should be selected based on application. Metal containers are strong, inexpensive, and can be resistant to chemicals and corrosion media. Plastics are light weight and can be made into many different shapes. This material is also flexible and has excellent electrical properties but poor temperature resistance. Plastics are generally resistant to corrosive medias but it has a tendency to crack due to environmental stress. Materials such as glass, wood, cardboard, and fabric are also available for containers.




Features common to industrial containers include collapsible, covers, EMI/RFI shielding, handles, hazardous materials storage, locking or restricted access, stackable, and wheels.




ISO or Intermodal rated freight containers conform to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) container manufacturing standards.  ISO is an international standards organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The term intermodal refers to the transport of freight in one shipping container by two or modes of transportation, such as truck and rail, or rail and ship. ISO or intermodal container types can be general purpose or dry, insulated, flat rack or platform, open top, refrigerated, or tank.



German Insurance Association - Container Types

Walsh Marine - Introduction to Container Transportation


Image Credit: U.S. Plastic Corp. | C&H Distributors



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