Less Common Uses for Shipping Containers

Since the mid 1970s, shipping containers have become a common site in almost every environment on Earth. You see them in the background in Afghanistan war scenes, they are on the ice in Antarctica and wherever you go in 1st, 2nd or 3rd world cities, you will see them on trucks, ships, trains or just sitting around the place.

With the advent of the internet, people can share ideas and with containers being a common items all over the world, people share their ideas on novel uses for shipping containers. Below are links to some interesting youtube clips.

Shipping container homes

Wine cellar made from a shipping container buried under ground

There are many ways in which containers can be transported. among these are;

By Ship

By Rail

By side loading truck

By tilt tray truck

The advent of shipping containers has led to many unexpected benefits for consumers. Among them are;

  1. International freight has become so cost effective that is is often less expensive to buy something from the other side of the world rather than at the shop down the road. Intermodal shipping containers have opened up cheap labour markets to the world. This has lead to manufacturing industries moving out of western countries.
  2. A number of container moving companies have sprung up to service consumers who are moving house. This has meant that they can avoid paying the high cost interstate removalists such as Allied Pickfords, Wridgeways, Grace Removals and Kent Moving.
  3. Shipping containers have become a regular site as home based storage. Hire a container, put your belongings in it and it is all watertight and secure at a bargain price.

Container Hardware

Shipping containers have dramatically reduced the cost of moving goods over long distances by sea, rail and road. The secret to the success of the shipping container is standardisation. Container are made so that they can easily be transported intermodally.  Intermodal means that the container can be transported in a standardised way on ships, trains and trucks Рsometimes all 3 in one trip. For this reason, shipping containers have a number of features that are common to most containers.

Corner Castings
8 heavy steel castings attached to the corner posts that are used for lifting and fastening containers to carrying devices (train, ships and trucks). Corner castings are of a standard design and are tied to the main frame of the container. The bottom 4 castings are alsways in the same location from side to side but can vary length ways depending on the container type. Most common are 20ft equivelent (1teu) and 40ft equivelent (2teu).


Corner posts
Corner posts are posts of heavy steel that link the corner castings and separate the base from the roof. Container can be lifted by the top corner castings (normally by crane or specialised container forklifts at intermodal terminals. or by fork slots in the base.

Container Base
The base of a container is made up of bottom rails joined laterally by cross members. The floor assembly is fastened to the corner posts / corner castings.

Container Floor
Typically steel, plywood or bamboo.

Outer Skin
The outer skin of a container is normally made of 2 to 3mm mild steel and is normally corrugated in various designs for strength.

Locking Pins
The locking pins are not actually part of the container but are a reasonably standard device on trucks, ships and trains. The pin on the left is in the closed (locked) position. The pin on the right is in the open (unlocked) position.

Door Gaskets
Heavy rubber seals surrounding the doors.

Container Doors
Double doors opening from the centre on one end.

Locking Assembly
Vertical locking bars with cams top and bottom for locking into the base and top. Handles midway for twisting the bars. Normally two bars per door. Each handle can be locked against the door with a padlock.

Lock Box
A shroud that covers and extra locking point. This is an optional extra that makes it more difficult for the padlock to be accessed by bolt cutters.

Lashing Points
Heavy tie off points set into the corrugations of the container walls (inside) – for securing heavy items.

Tie rails
Light weight (normally steel strip) rails welded into the walls of containers. Useful when the moving container is transporting loose items such as furniture for long distance relocations.

Vapor vents
Shrouded vents set into the wall of a container to allow water or other vapor to escape the container while also resisting the entry of water.

The History of Containerization

To package cargo in large standardized containers for efficient shipping and handling.

To adapt an industry or shipping operation to the use of such containers.

Containerization is a system through which shipping containers and ISO containers are loaded onto transportation devices such as: container ships, railway flatbeds and trucks. It originates from England from as far back as 1792 where a similar system was put in place within the coal mining industry.

Coal was being carried in wagons that were pulled by horses and then taken to canal barges to then be further transported. Although the scale of which the system was implemented is no-where near as big as it is today, the concept was very similar.

The US government also used a small standard size container in the first world war to efficiently transport supplies. After the second world war the system evolved, through one man, bringing with it globalization, reduced transportation costs and quicker transportation speeds.

Malcom McLean

Malcom McLean was born in 1913 in Maxton, North Carolina. It was he who developed the metal shipping container which revolutionized the transport of goods and cargo worldwide. His success was so great that he was named as the “Man of the Century” by Maritime Hall of Fame and became known as “The Father of Containerization”.