Choosing an ISO Shipping Container – What You Need To Know


The acronym ISO standards for International Standards Organization. The International Standards Organization is a federation of organizations that has over 100 member countries that work toward ensuring standardization of everything from shipping containers to the size of credit cards.

This organization is not a governmental body but instead a body made up of commerce members. The ISO was developed in 1947. This group contains member organization across many different industries including the shipping/storing/import/export industry.

The shipping container standards that are recognized internationally are set by this organization. For shipping purposes the standards are basically agreements that contain specifications and other criteria that are to be used as guidelines. The standards that are set for containers is set so that the same containers can be used worldwide without special equipment or extra steps. They are more than simple recommendations or “best practices”.

The ISO shipping container sizes vary but are all set to stringent standards. Using ISO shipping containers means that you will avoid delays. While ISO is a set of guidelines they have been adopted into regulation by most member countries. This means that if you digress from the standards you may face penalties, long delays at port and it can affect how you do business internationally.

Establishing International Standards is a voluntary action that is based on:

  • Industry Need
  • Industry Agreement

Representatives from member country come together and devise an understanding as to what is not beneficial within the industry for example ISO shipping containers are measured using two different measuring methods. They are measured internally and externally. They are also measured by maximum gross weight that is considered universally beneficial.

For example the most common ISO shipping container are:

20’ containers: 24 000 kg (52 910 lbs.) according to the last issue of ISO 668; 30 480 kg (67 200 lbs.) valid for most 20’ containers; exceeds ISO minimum standards. 40’ containers: 30 480 kg (67 200 lbs.)As per the ISO Regulation Handbook.

The size variant is typically denoted by an ISO number. For example the ISO 668 or ISO 146. The number indicates the size and the load weight capacity of the container.

Choosing the Right ISO Container

Understanding your options is key to ensuring that you choose the ISO container that is best for your needs. Depending on what you plan on shipping and how much weight you plan on shipping will dictate that type of ISO container that you should choose.

Of course maximum weight is not the only consideration you also want to consider quality of the container because you want to be sure that it will last and stand the test of time. There are other options to consider such as custom sized ISO containers. In many cases when you are pressed for space you can opt for vertical cube storage to make the most of your space.

Other considerations are safety features, custom flooring options, one trip or used. Each area of consideration is an important area of consideration that will help to ensure the safe shipment of your goods.

For example if you have electronics or medical equipment to ship you want to consider using a one trip container to best protect your goods. If you have goods that can be transferred safely in a used ISO, it can be a huge money saving option.

Some popular options include:

  • Hardtop
  • Open top
  • Half height open top
  • Flat container
  • Platform container
  • Refrigerated

Each of the above comes in different lengths and have different ISO numbers. Each of the above is able to provide outstanding shipping/storage options for a wide range of products. Let’s take a closer look at each option to see which option would be best suited to meet your needs.

Hardtop ISO Shipping Container is ideal for:

This container is especially ideal for heavy loads. It works well for excessively overweight loads that have to be loaded by crane through the roof opening or through the doors. The steel roof weight about 450KG when the roof is removed and the header for the door has been swung out.

In cases where the load exceeds roof height, sections of the roof can be attached to the wall on the inside of the ISO container taking up only a small amount of space (approximately 13cm).

Tarps can be used as well and secured using a lash to further protect the goods. These containers come in 2 length sizes.

Open Top Container:

The open top ISO shipping container is ideal for over height items. All of the door headers can be swung out for easy loading. They make loading from door sides easier. These types of containers are available primarily in two length sizes.

Half Height Open Top

The half-height open top is ideal for over height loads. This is a great option for half loads to save space and money.

Flat ISO Shipping Container

The flat ISO shipping container is ideal for over wide loads and for heavier loads. This construction offers fixed lashing walls to easily secure cargo that is wider than normal.

Platform ISO Shipping Container

This container is especially useful for very heavy loads that are oversized. The platform allows for easy transport of odd shaped cargo.

Refrigerated ISO Shipping Container

Perishable goods depend on climate controlled storage and shipping the refrigerated container is the best answer for any perishable goods that are at risk. Using this type of shipping/storage container will ensure that goods are preserved and that they reach the end user in the best possible condition.

There are plenty of good options that can easily meet a host of needs. Understanding your options and making an informed decision can help you to make a choice that will serve your organization well. Choosing the right ISO shipping container is a great way to ensure the speedy transport of your goods and that your goods will arrive in good condition.