Sea containers are built to standardized dimensions, and can be loaded and unloaded, stacked, transported efficiently over long distances, and transferred from one mode of transport to another—container ships, rail and semi-trailer trucks—without being opened.
Sea containers greatly reduced the expense of international trade and increased its speed, especially of consumer goods and commodities. The use of sea containers also dramatically changed the character of port cities worldwide. Prior to highly mechanized sea container transfers, crews of 20-22 longshoremen would pack individual cargoes into the hold of a ship. After the invention of sea containers, large crews of longshoremen were no longer necessary at port facilities.
There are five common standard lengths for sea containers, 20-ft (6.1 m), 40-ft (12.2 m), 45-ft (13.7 m), 48-ft (14.6 m), and 53-ft (16.2 m). United States domestic standard containers are generally 48 ft (15 m) and 53-ft (rail and truck). Container capacity is often expressed in twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU, or sometimes teu). An equivalent unit is a measure of containerized cargo capacity equal to one standard 20 ft (length) × 8 ft (width) container. As this is an approximate measure, the height of the box is not considered, for instance the 9 ft 6 in (2.9 m) High cube and the 4-ft 3-in (1.3 m) half height 20 ft (6.1 m) containers are also called one TEU.
Before choosing the type of sea container to use, you will also have to decide what grade of shipping container to purchase. There are “one-trip” or “new” shipping containers which are usually made in China and shipped to the United States. It is in “like-new” condition. Another type is the “cargo-worthy” type which is not considered “new” but is certified to ship cargo overseas. The third type are the “wind-tight and watertight” containers which are structurally sound and can resist wind and water. However, they have not been inspected and certified.
Sea container architecture is the use of containers as the basis for housing and other functional buildings for people, either as temporary or permanent housing, and either as a main building or as a cabin or workshop. Containers can also be used as sheds or storage areas in industry and commerce. Containers are also beginning to be used to house computer data centers, although these are normally specialized containers.
Among the world’s top sea container shipping companies are Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha or the NYK based in Japan; the Evergreen Marine Corporation based in China; CMA-CGM based in France; Maersk, a shipping corporation based in Denmark; the Mediterranean Shipping Company, or MSC, a Swiss international cargo; Hapag-Lloyd, which is German-based; Hanjin of South KOrea; and, APL, an auxiliary company to the Singaporean Orient Shipping Lines.
There are a lot of nationwide suppliers that provide the lease, rent or sale of sea containers. Many suppliers provide sea containers for a wide variety of applications including residential moves and renovations, construction, storage and more. Various providers can supply customized sea containers. These companies also offer choices of types and grades of sea containers depending on planned usage.