Guide to Shipping Containers: Sizes, Loading, and Drayage Services

shipping containers

The global shipping container market is booming and expected to grow by 12% each year from 2020 to 2028. This isn’t just a sign of the industry’s strength; it also shows how much the world relies on these metal shipping containers for trade. The market, worth about $6.41 billion in 2020, is set to more than double to around $15.87 billion by 2028. This big leap points to major changes in shipping and transportation, highlighting the need to understand shipping container sizes, smart loading techniques, and the crucial process of drayage. Our guide will help you understand these areas, making it easier to keep up with the fast-growing shipping container market.

Overview of Standard Shipping Container Sizes

Standard dry containers are among the most widely used in the industry. They’re versatile enough to carry a variety of dry goods such as barrels, bags, pallets, and boxes. These containers can also be customized on the inside to accommodate specific types of merchandise. For instance, you can add hangers for transporting clothes directly to stores.

Made from durable materials like steel or aluminum, standard containers mainly come in 20ft and 40ft sizes, with a smaller 10ft option available. They’re designed to be airtight and water-resistant, offering protection against external damage. Plus, they’re known for being cost-effective, making them a popular choice in the shipping market.

Standard Dry Containers

Container TypeDescriptionLengthWidthHeightCubic Capacity
20ft StandardIdeal for a variety of cargo, offering a balance between space and manageability.5.9m / 19.4ft2.35m / 7.8ft2.39m / 7.9ft33.2m³
40ft StandardBest for larger shipments, providing ample space for goods.12.03m / 39.5ft2.4m / 7.9ft2.39m / 7.9ft67.7m³
10ft ContainerIdeal for smaller cargo loads or limited space scenarios, offering compact yet efficient storage solutions.3.5m / 11.5ft2.44m / 8ft2.59m / 8.5ft

This table provides a clear overview of the key dimensions and capacities for the 20ft and 40ft standard shipping containers, as well as the more compact 10ft container, each tailored to different logistical requirements.

High Cube Containers

20ft High Cube: Offers extra height for taller items, optimizing vertical space.

40ft High Cube: Combines the benefits of the 40ft length with additional height, maximizing volume.

These container types are designed to meet diverse shipping and storage needs, each with unique features to accommodate different cargo types and handling requirements:

  • Standard Dry Containers
  • High Cube Containers
  • Reefer Containers (Refrigerated Containers)
  • Double Door Containers
  • Open Top Containers
  • Pallet Wide Containers
  • Flat Rack Containers
  • Side Door Containers
  • Hard Top Containers
  • Tank Containers
  • Insulated Containers
  • Half Height Containers

Shipping Container Dimensions

Shipping containers are primarily available in three key lengths: 10ft, 20ft, and 40ft, each with a standard width of about 8 feet. These containers come in two height options: the standard variant at 8 feet 6 inches and the high cube variant at 9 feet 6 inches. The high cube containers provide additional storage space and better air circulation, making them a versatile choice for a variety of cargo needs.

Below is a table providing an overview of different shipping container options and their specifications (Source): 

Container typeInternal Dimensions(LxWxH)Cubic Capacity(cu ft)Payload capacity(lb)Tare weight(lb)
Standard Dry Containers
10ft Standard Dry Container
20ft Standard Dry Container19.36ft x 7.71ft x 7.84ft1,172 cu ft55,126 lbs5,071 lbs
40ft Standard Dry Container39.47ft x 7.87ft x 7.84ft2,389 cu ft61,200 lbs8,268 lbs
High Cube Containers
10ft High Cube Container11.48ft x 8.01ft x 9.48ft
20ft High Cube Container19.36ft x 7.72ft x 8.85ft62,082 lbs5,103 lbs
40ft High Cube Container39.47ft x 7.71ft x 8.86ft2,694 cu ft8,598 lbs
45ft High Cube Container44.46ft x 7.71ft x 8.86ft3,037 cu ft61,067 lbs10,552 lbs
53ft High Cube Container52.99ft x 8.01ft x 9.48ft
Reefer Containers
20ft Reefer Container17.85ft x 7.51ft x 7.45ft999 cu ft60,471 lbs6,791.4 lbs
40ft Reefer Container37.93ft x 7.48ft x 7.38ft2,093 cu ft61,078 lbs10,584 lbs
40ft Reefer High Cube Container37.93ft x 7.51ft x 8.37ft2,380 cu ft65,080 lbs9,880 lbs
Double Door Containers
20ft Double Door Container11.48ft x 7.71ft x 7.84ft1,172 cu ft55,126 lbs5,071 lbs
40ft Double Door Container39.47ft x 7.87ft x 7.84ft2,389 cu ft61,200 lbs8,268 lbs
40ft Double Door High Cube Container39.47ft x 7.68ft x 8.83ft2,694 cu ft63,052 lbs11,470 lbs
Open Top Containers
20ft Open Top Container19.32ft x 7.71ft x 7.71ft1,155 cu ft62,214 lbs5,982 lbs
40ft Open Top Container39.47ft x 7.87ft x 7.68ft2,356 cu ft58,422 lbs8,774 lbs
40ft Open Top High Cube Container39.47ft x 7.71ft x 8.86ft2,645 cu ft62,281 lbs9,370 lbs
Pallet Wide Containers
20ft Pallet Wide Container19.32ft x 8.01ft x 7.84ft1,213 cu ft61,905 lbs5,291 lbs
40ft Pallet Wide Container39.47ft x 8.01ft x 7.81ft2,467 cu ft58,819 lbs8,377 lbs
40ft Pallet Wide High Cube Container44.46ft x 7.91ft x 8.83ft3,044 cu ft65,521 lbs9,435 lbs
Flat Rack Containers
20ft Flat Rack Container19.49ft x 7.71ft x 7.71ft1,154 cu ft66,458 lbs5,203 lbs
40ft Flat Rack Container39.80ft x 7.87ft x 7.02ft2,195 cu ft88,200 lbs11,025 lbs
Side Door Containers
20ft Side Door Container19.36ft x 7.71ft x 7.68ft1,165 cu ft61,244 lbs5,950 lbs
40ft Side Door Container39.47ft x 7.48ft x 7.51ft2,2306 cu ft60,180 lbs10,362 lbs
40ft Side Door High Cube Container39.47ft x 7.68ft x 8.83ft2,694 cu ft63,052 lbs11,470 lbs
Hard Top Containers
20ft Hard Top Container19.32ft x 7.71ft x 7.71ft1,155 cu ft62,214 lbs5,982 lbs
40ft Hard Top Container39.47ft x 7.87ft x 7.68ft2,356 cu ft58,422 lbs8,774 lbs
40ft Hard Top High Cube Container39.47ft x 7.87ft x 8.83ft2,694 cu ft63,052 lbs11,470 lbs
Tank Containers
20ft Tank Container19.85ft x 8.00ft x 8.50ft26,000  ltrs7041.56 lbs8950,76 lbs
Insulated Containers
20ft Insulated Container18.86ft x 7.41ft x 6.92ft970 cu ft47,070 lbs5,840 lbs
40ft Insulated Container5.12ft x 7.48ft x 7.38ft2,090 cu ft61,070 lbs10,580 lbs
Half Height Containers
20ft Half Height Container19.29ft x 7.28ft x 3.08ft432 cu ft22,050 lbs5,240 lbs
Note: The above dimensions and weights are approximate and may vary by manufacturer.

Floor Loaded vs. Palletized Shipping Containers

Understanding how shipping containers are loaded is crucial for optimizing the drayage process. There are primarily two types of container loads:

Floor Loaded Containers

  • Characteristics: Goods are packed directly on the floor of the container, maximizing space utilization.
  • Considerations: More manual handling required, making the process labor-intensive.
floor loaded container

Palletized Containers

  • Characteristics: Goods are stacked on pallets, allowing for easier and quicker loading and unloading with forklifts.
  • Considerations: Generally more efficient but may not utilize the full volume of the container.
palletized container

Both loading methods are prevalent and necessitate specialized drayage trucking to move goods efficiently from ports to their next destinations, such as warehouses or rail ramps.

Drayage Services and Real-Time Shipping Container Tracking

Our comprehensive drayage services are designed to streamline the process of moving shipping containers from the port to your warehouse and back. With our advanced Transportation Management System (TMS), we offer real-time tracking of your containers, providing visibility from the moment they are picked up at the port until they reach their destination. This transparency ensures that you are always informed about the status of your cargo, enabling better planning and management of your supply chain.

Benefits of Our Drayage and TMS Services:

  • Efficiency: Handle both floor loaded and palletized containers with ease.
  • Visibility: Track your containers in real-time, enhancing supply chain management.
  • Security: Ensure the safe transport of your goods with our expert drayage solutions.

Our TMS integrates seamlessly with existing supply chain management systems, offering a robust solution to optimize your logistics operations. Whether it’s a 10ft, 20ft, or 40ft container, our drayage services ensure your cargo is handled with care and precision, from port to warehouse.

Common FAQs on Shipping Container Sizes and Loading

What are standard container sizes?

Standard sizes include 20ft, 40ft, and the taller 40ft high cube containers, catering to various cargo needs.

What is the size of a 40ft shipping container?

A 40ft container measures 12.03m in length, 2.4m in width, and 2.39m in height.

What are 20ft shipping container dimensions?

A standard 20ft container is 5.9m long, 2.35m wide, and 2.39m high.

Selecting the right shipping container size is critical for the safety and efficiency of your cargo transport. Coupled with our expert drayage services and real-time tracking capabilities, we ensure a seamless logistics experience, providing you with the tools you need to manage your shipments effectively.

What are standard container sizes?

The most common sizes are 20ft, 40ft, and the taller 40ft high cube containers, suitable for various cargo needs.

How does container loading impact drayage operations?

The loading method (floor loaded vs. palletized) influences the efficiency of loading/unloading and the overall drayage process, with palletized cargo generally allowing for quicker operations.

Partner with 3PL Center

An added advantage of our services is the efficiency with which we handle shipping containers upon arrival. We have the capability to unload, securely store, and prepare goods for dispatch, ensuring they are picked, packed, and ready for shipment within a concise 48-hour window. This fast turnaround is part of our commitment to providing seamless logistics and 3PL fulfillment solutions.

Our expertise in managing diverse container loads, combined with our advanced tracking and drayage services, ensures that your goods are transported efficiently and safely, maintaining the integrity of your supply chain. Whether your shipping containers are floor loaded or palletized, we provide the logistical solutions needed to navigate the complexities of modern freight transportation.