Intermodal Container Specifications & Regulations

Intermodal shipping containers – or shipping containers, as they are more commonly known – have been specifically designed so that they are uniform. This means that they can be used to carry cargo across the world, being transferred easily between different modes of transport such as cargo ships, trains and trucks.

It is important, therefore, that intermodal shipping containers are regulated to ensure that they can be easily manoeuvred, effective as a means for transporting cargo, and cost-effective.

Shipping Container Sizes

Although there are also some unconventional shipping container sizes available, the majority of the containers that are used for carrying goods around the world are either 20ft or 40ft shipping containers. This makes it easier to stack and store the containers, as well as transfer them between different modes of transport.

All of the shipping containers have a standard width of 8ft and a height of 8ft 6in, except for the high cube options that have a height of 9ft 6in, making them easy to stack. The general shipping container dimensions for the normal intermodal models mean that:

The 20ft standard shipping container has a volume of 1160ft³

The 20ft high cube shipping container has a volume of 1310ft³

The 40ft standard shipping container has a volume of 2360ft³

The 40ft high cube shipping container has a volume of 2660ft³

Other Testing

Most of the shipping containers that are used for transporting cargo are made from corrugated weathering steel and have a floor made from plywood. They will normally have a standardised door at one end, but there can be small differences between the different shipping containers manufacturers. This is fine, as long as they are within the standard regulations.

In order to ensure that intermodal shipping containers can be easily and safely stacked, transported on a range of different modes of transport, and can protect their contents properly, they need to pass a series of standard tests. These tests can include:

  • Their ability to be stacked
  • Their ability to be lifted
  • The strength of each wall
  • The strength of the roof and floor
  • Its rigidity
  • Whether it is weatherproof

Without passing this test, an intermodal shipping container wouldn’t be able to withstand some of the potential hazards that might be thrown at it, such as extreme weather conditions and the weight of other containers being stacked on top of it.

ISO Code

Each intermodal shipping container is given an ISO number or code. This is a method of classifying the container in a manner that is recognised internationally. The number can give you information about the size and type of the shipping container. This is especially useful as when shipping containers are stacked on top of each other, you cannot see the length of them.

The ISO codes consist of four characters and are located on the top right-hand corner of the shipping container. The first number tells you the container’s length (‘2’ = 20ft, for example). The second number signifies the shipping container’s height and width, and the third and fourth numbers show the type of shipping container that it is.

Intermodal Shipping Container Regulations

The main regulations that are applied to intermodal shipping containers are linked to their size. They need to be a regular size so that they can easily and safely be stacked and secured, especially when they are at sea. This way, operational costs can be kept low and there is less chance of damage.

It is important that intermodal shipping containers are regulated and meet the specifications that are laid out. Without this, it would defeat the object of having them, affecting security and the cost-effectiveness of the world’s preferred method of transporting cargo.