Everything you need to know about containers

  • 01/06/2023
  • 10 minutes

Let’s imagine the following scenario: you are at a transport logistics fair, such as Intermodal South America, and the purpose of your visit is to contact potential customers. As conversation goes on you realise there is an excellent opportunity in front of you, but to win this portfolio you need to know about containers. So, would you sign this contract?

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In this article you will find information about containers, such as the history behind its invention, the advantages and ways of using it and other curiosities about this important element of logistics. Good reading!

The history of container

In the middle of the 20th century, American businessman Malcom McLean, owner of a small trucking company, wondered how the process of loading, transporting and unloading materials of his fleet of vehicles was done. At that time, transport was carried out using barrels and boxes, regardless of the mode. After his analysis, he concluded that this was not the most productive and safe way to carry goods and began to search for a solution.

It was at that time that he had the idea of using steel boxes, which were larger and more resistant, to transport goods. As the years passed, McLean evolved his idea, and structured what we now know today as a container, a bulky steel box intended for packaging and transporting cargo on ships and other modes.

Currently, containers have 20 to 40 feet, being much larger than the original 33 feet. The main difference between current containers is the length: the first one measures 5.9 metres while the second reaches 12 metres. Find out below the main advantages of using containers in logistics.

Efficiency gain with the use of the container

The invention of the container was a major breakthrough. Its physical characteristics designed for maximum efficiency in the transport of specific loads completely changed the paradigm of the sector.

As they are designed to fit a wide variety of transportation vehicles, and can even be stacked on top of each other on ships, for example, transporting large volumes of goods at once has made logistical operations much more productive.

Safety is also a factor that drew a lot of attention from companies, as containers are built of resistant and durable materials, which makes them capable of withstanding extreme transport conditions. They are locked and sealed to increase cargo protection.

However, the fact that they are designed to be resistant to natural conditions such as cold, heat, sun and rain allows them to remain stored in terminal yards, bringing flexibility to national and international logistics.

Keep reading and learn about the main types of containers currently available in the market!

Types of Containers and their applications

Since their creation, containers have been perfected for specific situations and loads. Currently, there is a wide array of solutions. The following is a list detailing the 9 main types of containers available in the market:

1) Dry Box Container

Container used for dry loads of non-perishable industrialised products, such as bags, pallets and construction materials. Sizes include 20 or 40 feet.

2) High Cube Container

This container is only different in its height being one foot higher than the standard container.

3) Dry-Bulk Container

With an inner linning, this model is ideal for transporting coffee beans, corn and other commodities.

4) Flat Rack Container

It is used for transporting oversize goods exceeding the sizes of the container itself, such as heavy construction or agricultural machinery. Sizes include 20 or 40 feet.

5) Tank Container

It is used for transportation of liquids in general, normally chemical or corrosive. They are fully coated internally and still have a cylindrical shape different from other containers.

6) Ventilated Container

Ventilated Containers have air inlets and outlets distributed throughout their structure for better cargo ventilation. Coffee, cocoa and other types of grains require this type of care when transported.

7) Platform Container

This model is perhaps the most differentiated among all, as it has neither a roof nor sides. It is used for overweight loads and sizes include 20 and 40 feet.

8) Reefer Container

It is exclusive for the transportation of refrigerated goods that require to be kept at low temperatures, such as meat and fruit. Models range between 20 and 40 feet.

9) Open Top Container

Its roof is open and covered only by a canvas or fabric. This type of container is used for loads with excess height or that must be placed in a container using a crane, such as machinery, stones, building materials and glass.

Finally, it is a fact that for each type of cargo, there is a specific container. By knowing the characteristics of each one, it is possible to get the right contract. Keep reading and find out even more curiosities about containers, their history and current use.

6 Incredible curiosities about containers

  • After carrying out several transport tests between North American ports, it was in 1966 that this invention made its first intercontinental trip. The “SS Fairland” was responsible for taking the first containers to Europe, more specifically to the port of Rotterdam, in the Netherlands.
  • Containers have a very long lifespan and can last even longer if properly maintained. Among the models, the one that stands out is the High Cube, as the one with the longest lifespan.
  • The Dry Box model was the first to be created and is still the most used today.
  • After being used in the logistics sector, a container can still be reused for civil construction, representing one less disposal in the environment.
  • In 2023, the Wilson Sons unit “Tecon Salvador” broke the record of 110 containers handled per hour (hph – loading and unloading) during operation of the M/V “Corcovado”, berthed at the new pier “Santa Dulce dos Pobres”
  • Together, Tecon Rio Grande and Tecon Salvador handled an average of 1 million containers per year.

Now that you know everything about containers, continue navigating the world of maritime logistics with our guide on the main types of ships.