A Brief Guide to the Most Common Types of Containers for Ocean Freight 

November 2, 2021

According to industry estimates, ocean freight accounts for around 90% of the global cargo. With 60% of cargo being carried in containers, according to Statista, it is hardly surprising that there are quite a few types of shipping containers, many of them for specialized applications. Some of the most common container types include:

General Purpose Containers

Also known in the industry as a “dry container”, a general-purpose container is characterized by a rigid roof, floor, and sidewalls made from heavy-duty steel. These full-enclosed containers are weatherproof to protect the cargo from the elements. As the name suggests, these containers are usually used to carry dry cargo though some variations have flex tanks or liner bags for transporting dry bulk or even liquid cargo. General-purpose containers are the most widely used container type.

Flat Rack Containers

They are a simple solution for carrying oversize cargo like vehicles on tracks, construction materials, heavy machinery, timber, etc. The container’s sides are collapsible and can be folded while the end walls are strong and stable for securing the cargo. It is not uncommon for a 40-foot container to carry loads of up to 40 tons. These containers get their name because they can be stacked flat on top of each other like a rack for easy transportation when empty.

High Cube Containers

Similar to general-purpose containers, high cube containers have one significant difference. The shipping container height is one foot more. While the standard size is 40 feet, you can also get the 45-foot version if you like. The advantage of using high cube containers is the larger volume. These containers have a recess on the floor towards the front. It permits centering on a gooseneck chassis and also allows them to lie lower despite their extra height.

Open Top Containers

An open-top shipping container has a top that you can remove for accommodating over-height cargo that you cannot load using the door. Typically, shippers use these containers for transporting tall machinery or bulky products that they can only load using rolling bridges or cranes. Open-top containers have lashing rings fixed to the lower and upper side rails as well as corner posts to secure the cargo. You can choose between the 20-foot and the 40-foot variants of open-top containers. A variant of this type of container has open sides to facilitate quicker loading and unloading of bulky cargo.

Double Door Containers

As the name indicates, double door containers have doors on both ends compared to the single door on one end of most other types of containers. Also known as “tunnel containers”, these containers are configured to facilitate fast loading and unloading of the cargo like iron and steel bars and rods. Both the doors have the usual lock assembly and weatherproof seals to protect the cargo from the elements.


Containerization has made ocean freight far simpler and cost-effective than before. To make things easier for shippers, there is a wide variety of shipping containers. Though the dimensions are standardized, there is a lot of variation to suit different kinds of cargo, including perishable cargo and corrosive chemicals.

Carlos Diaz
I believe in making the impossible possible because there’s no fun in giving up. Travel, design, fashion and current trends in the field of industrial construction are topics that I enjoy writing about.

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