Shipping Container Dimensions Explained
On this site, we have provided both metric and imperial measurements for all types of intermodal container as well as size.
Be aware that despite ISO container standards, exact dimensions will differ according to manufacturer, age of container and type.
External Shipping Container Dimensions
- The length (L) as measured from the extreme points along the longest side of the container. In the industry, containers are identified in terms of the their longest sides – hence 20 foot, 40 foot shipping containers for example.
- The width (W) is usually the narrowest side and where you will find the container door opening (unless the container has been subsequently modified).
- The height (H) is the measurement from the bottom of the container frame to the top, taken on the outside.
Note that the height of the door opening is always less than the overall height of the container.
When loading freight, take into account this data as well as the clearance required for loading, forklifting and movement of the goods or cargo into the container.
Internal Shipping Container Dimensions
The image on the right illustrates the points of reference for calculating the internal dimensions of a shipping container.
- Internal width (B1) is measured from the inside of the two longest sides of the container.
- Internal length (L1) is measured from the inside of the two shortest sides of the container.
- Internal height (H1) is measured from the inside floor level to the insider ceiling level of the container.
- Door opening width (B2) is calculated from the inside left and inside right of the frame supports allowing for a small gap for the opening radius of the door (usually 270 degrees). Expect this measurement to be slightly shorter than the available internal width (B1).
- Door opening height (H2) is taken from the floor level to the underside of the horizontal cross support of the container or simply the top of the door opening. This measurement is usually the same or less than the internal available height (H1)
Tare weight is simply the weight of the intermodal container without being loaded. By comparing this figure with the overall gross weight once loaded, the actual weight of goods can be calculated.
Where the payment of tariffs and taxes are required for international transportation, export and import, knowing the correct tare weight is critical.
Note that tare weights can vary considerably and, as such, there are no given standards.
Rating refers to the maximum permissible weight of the shipping container once loaded.
Payload is the actual weight of the freight or cargo being carried.
Therefore, the maximum payload per container can be calculated by taking the rating of the container and subtracting its official tare weight.
Recommended Dimensions For Container Homes
ISO standardization applies only to freight, cargo and intermodal transport. In the developing shipping container homes industry, container sizes and dimensions are dictated by the needs of the housing project.
10′ foot containers find application in projects where space is not an important requirement, such as a building site rest-room for example.
20′ containers and 40′ containers on the other hand find a multitude of applications, not just because of their price and wide availability, but their ease of ‘stacking’ and the possibilities created by positioning two or more of these containers side-by-side.
See our section on container home examples for more information.