Containers are used for various reasons: for transporting cargo around the world, used for storage, or even the basis for homes, offices, bars or high-end industrial or academic applications. With this in mind, it can be somewhat confusing when you hear the terms ‘sea container’, ‘shipping container’, ‘freight container’ or ‘ISO container’ being used. Are they the same thing? If not, what are the differences between them, and how does that affect you?

Essentially, ‘sea containers’, ‘shipping containers’, ‘freight containers’ or ‘ISO containers’ are all the same thing. They are standardised rectangular shaped ‘boxes’ which have been specially designed to be able to safely and securely store and carry objects. They will all be made to comply with the ISO (International Standards Organisation) standards.

Sea Containers

If you are looking at getting a sea container, regardless of the type you get, you can rest assured that it will certainly be stackable, watertight, made from strong steel which is protected from rusting and able to bear very heavy loads. There are, however, some other differences with sea containers – mainly that those which are made for shipping will have to pass a number of very stringent tests to be approved as seaworthy.

When a container is used for shipping it must be able to withstand the rough conditions of being at sea and must be suitable for use in ports around the world. A CSC (Container Safe Convention) plate will give information about the container and verify that it is safe for shipping.

If you are buying a container for uses other than shipping however, a CSC plate won’t be necessary.

Containers with no CSC Plate

If you are looking for a container to customise or use purely for storage on dry land, you need not get one with a CSC plate – in fact, this will save you money. While it is important that your container is watertight and in good condition, it is unlikely that your container will need to withstand the same adverse conditions that it would if being shipped to another country across the ocean.

It also means that you are able to adapt and customise your container without having to worry about the CSC status, and can create the ideal space for your needs at lower cost. You will also have greater flexibility in terms of size of container and their function, for instance adding and adapting windows and doors, adding anti-condensation accessories and repainting as well as re-sizing the box.

If you have a container that conforms to ISO standards, you will be able to use it for storage stationery on dry land, on trucks and trains.

To summarise, when you are choosing the right container for you, it is important to be clear on its intended use. If you are looking to buy a container so that you can ship cargo around the world, you must make sure that it has a CSC plate and conforms to the regulations of the ISO. However, if you are looking at using for stationary storage or customising it for your own personal needs, you needn’t spend so much money on a compliant container. For industrial applications such as lithium-ion battery storage or boiler room housings, you will likely have a range of additional regulations to comply with.