For many people, shipping containers bring to mind ingenious conversion projects and grand designs where people have creatively turned them into offices, restaurants or homes. With some great concepts brought to life by shipping container conversion specialists, we are now seeing an increasing number of people enjoy the benefits of something that designed for the transportation of cargo.

Both the popularity and beauty of a shipping container is due to its simplicity. It is essentially a standardised steel box that is strong, durable, stackable and easy to move. However, as containers are using for increasingly creative applications, it can be easy to forget about just how integral shipping containers are to our everyday lives and the global economy.

The Use of Shipping Containers for Goods Transport

Shipping containers were first invented in the 1950s to improve the process of transporting goods. Before they were used, goods were transported in sacks, crates and boxes of varying dimensions and materials. By introducing a standard size and shape, shipping containers allowed goods to be packed more neatly and efficiently, allowing more goods to be transported in a single trip.

These containers are also able to be transferred more easily between different modes of transport to save time. Shipping containers are also much less expensive to ship and therefore less expensive for shippers. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, they can be locked to reduce the likelihood of theft.

A 20ft shipping container – also known as a TEU – is a standard size and has a capacity of about 32m².  This is much larger than you might think, and many people are surprised to see just how much storage they can fit in a 20ft shipping container.

Shipping Around the World

Research shows that about 90% of all items which are purchased have travelled somewhere in a shipping container. With the growth in manufacturing in China, for example, shipping containers undisputable key to the global economy.

Research has also found that there are about 20 million shipping containers in the world today, and there are over 200 million shipping container trips made per year. In short, without shipping containers, our world would be a very different place.

Shipping Containers for Storage

It isn’t always the case that you have the same number of shipping containers coming in as going out. Different countries – or even cities – import and export different quantities of goods in different sizes, creating an excess shipping container in some places.

With this mind, some people have started using them for other reasons such as personal or business storage, as the basis for a self-storage service, or for the compliant storage of hazardous materials on-site.

Even if you are not planning on shipping your belongings, shipping containers can be very useful as a storage facility. If you are thinking about getting a shipping container for use as storage, there are three different standard sizes available to you: the smaller 10ft shipping container, the 20ft shipping container and the larger 40ft shipping container. There are also versions of each of these with additional height (and therefore capacity). These are called high cube containers.

You can also customise your shipping container if need be, introducing racking, shelving and lighting, for instance.

It is not uncommon for people and organisations alike to hire shipping containers for temporary storage. This is typical for businesses looking to capitalise on seasonal increases in demand, for instance.