Shipping Container Sizes, Width & Dimensions – A Guide

Container shipping is one of the most efficient methods of transportation. The main reason for this is because there is such a variety in size of shipping containers, plus multiple transportation modes such as rail, lorry or ship.

Due to the overwhelming number of different dimensions, as well as the different markings, Portman Logistics have made a simple guide for you so you can easily navigate and find what you need during container haulage or transport.

A Simple Guide to Shipping Containers

Shipping Container Dimensions

With over 17 million shipping containers available, we thought we would choose the most common dimensions used. Although depending on the manufacturer, container owner and age of the container, these dimensions are a representation of ISO certified containers and may only vary slightly.

20 Ft. Shipping Container Dimensions:

The most popular ISO shipping container size is 20ft and is used by ships of all sizes. Its specific dimensions are:

  • Length – 6.06m
  • Width – 2.44m
  • Height – 2.59m

Furthermore, its maximum weight capabilities are:

  • General Purpose – 30,480kg
  • Flatracks – 45,000kg
  • Reefer – 27,400kg

40 Ft. Shipping Container Dimensions:

The 40ft shipping container is the most cost-efficient solution for goods carried by ship. Offering double the volume of the 20ft, its specific dimensions are:

  • Length – 12.19m
  • Width – 2.44m
  • Height – 2.59m
  • High Cube Height – 2.89m

Furthermore, its maximum weight capabilities are:

  • General Purpose – 30,480kg
  • Flatracks – 60,000kg
  • Reefer – 35,000kg

45 Ft Shipping Container Dimensions

Offering extra space to the shipper, the 45ft shipping container has better cubic feet capacity than the 40ft. Its specific dimensions are:

  • Length – 13.71m
  • Width – 2.44m
  • Standard Height – 2.59m
  • High Cube Height – 2.89m

Its maximum weight capabilities are similar to a 40ft container.

Looking at road and rail transportation, the shipping container dimensions that are commonly used for this are:

  • 8ft
  • 10ft
  • 53ft
  • 60ft

If you are unsure what size shipping container would be best for your shipment, please don’t hesitate to contact us – One of our team members would be more than happy to help and advise you!

Shipping Container Markings

Here are all the different markings provided on an ISO container.

Container Number

The primary identification marking on the door is the container marking which has been specifically allotted by the ISO. The number is unique for everyone in order to identify every container to its owner; the number is registered for the records with Bureau International des Containers (BIC), Paris.

It consists of 7 number and 4 letters and follows the order like this: ABCD 123456 7. The first 3 letters are the Code for the Owner of the container and the 4th letter provides the container category. The first 6 numbers are the serial numbers for the container and the 7th number is called the check digit. This is used to validate if the owner or product group code and the registration number have been accurately transmitted.

ISO Code

Underneath the container number is the ISO code which consists of 2 letters and 2 numbers. The 2 letters indicate the type of container it is for example:

  • GP – General Purpose (without ventilation)
  • VH – General Purpose (with ventilation)
  • SN – Named Cargo
  • BU – Dry Bulk Cargo
  • HI – Insulated
  • UT – Open Top

Plus, many more. The 2 numbers indicate the size of the container, the 1st number stating the length and the 2nd number stating the width.

Approved Classification society label

After being tested for compliance with the ISO standards by an approved classification society, it is presented with an approved classification society label. This means it can be used for transportation and the label of the class is provided on the end door of the container.


Certifications achieved by the container are required to be displayed using plates. An example of this is a Container Safety Convention (CSC) plate which indicates that the container has been tested and inspected by approved authorities; it states details of the owner/s and other technical specifications.

Owner’s Logo

The shipping container will display the vendor’s logo/name on the end door.

Weights & Payload

Details of the weight capacity the shipping container holds will be marked in the end door:

Tare Weight – The weight of an empty container

Payload Weight – Maximum cargo weight an approved ISO container can carry

Gross Weight – Total weight of container and cargo

Capacity in Volume

The cubic capacity or the volume of the container is marked in the end door.

Warning and Operational Signs

Depending on the type of container and the cargo it will be holding, it may have various warning labels. For example, a heightened container or hazardous cargo will both need warning labels.

Shipping Container Advice from Portman Logistics

As a professional in the logistics industry, it is important to know the different shipping container sizes and dimensions, plus all of the markings that are required.

If you have any questions or anything to add, get in touch with us today and we’d love to chat to you about it.

Shipping Container Size Guide | Portman Logistics