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5 Different Types of Shipping Containers | Riseonic Shipping Lines

5 Different Types of Shipping Containers

In today’s globalized world, shipping containers play a crucial role in the transportation of goods across vast distances. These sturdy metal structures have revolutionized the logistics industry, allowing for efficient and secure movement of cargo. However, understanding the different types of shipping containers available is essential for individuals involved in international trade.

In this blog, we will explore five common kinds of containers that are being used in shipping and their respective advantages and disadvantages. So let’s begin!!!

What Are Shipping Containers?

Shipping containers, also known as “Intermodal Freight Containers” or “Cargo Containers”, are large metal boxes specifically designed for the intermodal shipments and storage of goods. They come in various sizes, but the most common dimensions are 20 feet and 40 feet in length. Additionally, manufacturers construct these containers from steel to withstand extreme weather conditions, ensuring the safety of the cargo inside.

Fact: Did you know that there are about 17 million containers in the world, and a significant share of the world’s long-distance cargo generated by global trade is transported in shipping containers? 

5 Common Types of Containers

The shipping industry uses many container types with each according to the cargo type and need. Reefer containers, for example, are perfect for transporting temperature-sensitive goods like medications.

Furthermore, shipping containers vary not only in type but also in size, categorized as ISO containers, including single-trip, second-hand, or custom-built options.

However, different container types vary in height and function. Among the most used are:

1)Standard Dry Containers

2) Refrigerated Containers

3)Open-Top Containers

4) Flat Rack Containers

5) Tank Containers

Exploring these options in detail will provide a clearer understanding of the different types of shipping containers available.

1) Standard Dry Containers

The most commonly used type of shipping container is the standard dry container. It transports general cargo such as clothing, electronics, machinery, and other non-perishable goods via Sea, Land, or Air Freight. Moreover, these containers are airtight and watertight, protecting the cargo from external elements during transit. However, standard dry containers are available in different sizes, including high cube variations, which offer additional vertical space.

2) Refrigerated Containers

Refrigerated containers, also known as “Reefer Containers”, are used in cold chain logistics to transport temperature-sensitive goods such as fruits, vegetables, pharmaceuticals, and certain chemicals. Additionally, the built-in refrigeration system equips these containers to maintain precise temperature control, ensuring the cargo remains fresh throughout the journey. However, refrigerated containers are also available in various sizes and are essential for maintaining the cold chain during the transportation of perishable items.

Available Size: 20ft and 40ft.

3) Open-Top Containers

Open-top containers are designed for cargo that cannot be loaded through the standard doors of a shipping container. These containers have a removable top, allowing for easy loading and unloading of oversized or heavy cargo. Furthermore, open-top containers are commonly used in project logistics for transporting goods such as machinery, construction materials, and vehicles. However, you can cover them with a tarpaulin or net to protect the cargo from rain.

Available Size: 20ft and 40ft.

4) Flat Rack Containers | Types of Shipping Containers

Flat rack containers are perfect for transporting cargo that cannot fit in a standard container due to their dimensions or shape. Additionally, these containers have collapsible sides, allowing for easy loading and unloading of cargo from the sides or top. However, flat rack containers are commonly used for shipping heavy machinery, vehicles, and oversized goods via land, air, or sea freight. Moreover, they offer flexibility in terms of cargo size and often load onto vessel decks or use for intermodal transportation.

Available Size: 20ft and 40ft.

5) Tank Containers

Tank containers, designed for transporting liquids and gases in bulk, feature a cylindrical shape and are constructed from stainless steel or other specialized materials to ensure compatibility with the cargo. Furthermore, they come in various sizes and are commonly used for shipping chemicals, food-grade products, and hazardous materials. However, they have built-in safety features to prevent leakage or spillage during transit.

Available Size: 20ft.

Pros & Cons

Freight containers are available in different sizes, meaning there is a variety of options for every person’s needs. However, each type have their specific pros and cons as well as you can see below in the table.

Container Type Pros Cons
Standard Dry Container
Standard Dry Container Widely available and cost-effective.
Limited suitability for temperature-sensitive cargo.
Referee Container
Precise temperature control for perishable goods.
Higher operational costs due to refrigeration system.
Open-Tank Container
Easy loading and unloading of oversized cargo.
Limited protection from weather conditions.
Flat Rack Container
Flexible loading options for irregularly shaped cargo.
Higher shipping costs due to specialized design.
Tank Container
Efficient transportation of liquid and gas cargo.
Limited versatility for non-liquid cargo.


Can I use a standard dry container to transport perishable goods?
No, standard dry containers are not suitable for transporting perishable goods as they lack temperature control capabilities. Instead, use refrigerated containers.

Are all shipping containers the same size?
No, shipping containers come in various sizes, with the most common lengths being 20 feet and 40 feet. However, there are also high cube variations that offer additional vertical space.

How do I choose the right type of shipping container for my cargo?
The choice of shipping container depends on the nature of your cargo. Additionally, consider factors such as size, weight, perishability, and loading requirements when selecting the appropriate container.

How many types of shipping containers are being used?
Many businesses use various types of freight containers. However, some of the most used types are:

1)Standard Dry Containers

2) Refrigerated Containers

3)Open-Top Containers

4) Flat Rack Containers

5) Tank Containers.


Many types of shipping containers have revolutionized the transportation and storage of goods worldwide. By understanding the shipping container types and sizes available, businesses and individuals can make informed decisions when it comes to shipping their cargo. Whether it’s a standard dry container, a refrigerated container, an open-top container, a flat rack container, or a tank container, each type has its advantages and disadvantages. However, by choosing the right container, you can ensure the safe and efficient transit of your goods.

For all your shipping needs, contact Riseonic Shipping Lines a trusted partner in global logistics.