What are different types of container used on ships ?

There are many container types in operation to suit a variety of trades. Sizes also vary and they can be shipped in the following sizes: 8 ft in width and 8 ft or 8 ft 6 inch in height, with lengths of 10, 20, 40 or 45 ft.

Conventional units (general purpose) –

Also known as a dry container are made from steel and fully enclosed with a timber floor. Cargo-securing lashing points are located at floor level at the base of the side panelling. Access for ‘stuffing’ and ‘de-stuffing’ is through full height twin locking doors at one end.

Open top containers –

Covered by tarpaulin and permits top loading/discharging for awkward sized loads which cannot be easily handled through the doorways of general purpose containers. These may be fitted with a removable top rail over and above the door aperture.

Half-height containers –

An open top container which is 4 ft 3 inch in height, i.e. half the standard height of a general purpose container. They were designed for the carriage of dense cargoes such as steel ingots, or heavy steel cargoes or stone, etc. since these cargoes take up comparatively little space in relation to their weight, two half-height containers occupying the same space as the standard unit.

Flat rack container –

This is a flat bed with fixed or collapsible ends and no roof. They are used to accommodate cargoes of non-compatible dimensions or special cargoes that require additional ventilation.

Bulk container –

Bulk containers are containers designed to carry free flowing cargoes like grain, sugar or cement. Loading and discharging taking place via three circular access hatches situated in the roof of the unit. They also incorporate a small hatch at the base which allows free flow when tipping the unit. Such containers are usually fitted with steel floors to facilitate cleaning.

Tank containers –

Tank containers are framed tank units designed for the carriage of liquids. The cylindrical tank usually made of stainless steel is secured in the framework which is of standard dimensions to be accommodated in loading and discharging as a normal general purpose container unit. The tanks can carry hazardous and non-hazardous cargo and are often used for whisky or liquid chemicals.

Ventilated containers –

Generally designed as a general purpose container but with added full length ventilation grills at the top and bottom of the side walls of the unit. They were primarily designed for the coffee trade but are equally suitable for other cargoes, which require a high degree of ventilation during shipping.

Open-sided containers –

These units are constructed with removable steel grate sides which are covered by poly vinyl chloride (PVC) sheeting. The side grates allow adequate ventilation when it is used to carry perishable goods and/or livestock. Such containers permit unrestricted loading and discharging with the grates removed.

Insulated containers –

Insulated containers are insulated and often used in association with a refrigeration air-blower systems to keep perishable cargoes fresh, e.g. meats, fruits vegetables, etc. The container has two porthole extractors fitted to one end of the unit to allow the cool air circulation to operate from the cooling plant. They are generally stowed under deck and close to, or adjacent to, the ship’s circulation ports. Other types of containers in this category  rely only on the insulation and are not fitted with cooling plant, and these can be stowed in any position on the ship.

Refrigerated containers –

Refrigerated  containers more generally known as the reefer container, they are totally insulated and fitted with their own refrigeration plant. They must be connected to the ship’s mains and require close stowage to a situated power point. They are usually employed for holding foodstuffs, meat and dairy products being prime examples. These units have become prolific and have caused a major reduction in the numbers of dedicated ‘reefer ships’, although reefer ships still operate they tend to be limited to specific trades like ‘bananas’.


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