Shipping, Logistics Management - Container Dimensions, Container Capacity, Rating, Tare Mass and Payload of Containers

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Containers and shipping information such as container dimensions, container capacity, container rating, tare mass, payloads, container tare mass, container payload, general purpose containers, dry cargo containers. reefers, refrigerated containers, tare weight, tares, container markings, container classifications, half height containers, TEU, twenty-foot equivalent unit, knots, cellular container ships, CBM, cubic measurements. container services, standard containers, hicube, high cube containers, cargo cubes, global shipping, import-export shipping, logistics, logistics management, logistics supports, shipping space, shipping order, S/O. shipping permits, shipping notes, dock receipts, master ships, mother ships, feeder vessels, transhipment, transshipment, transit shipment, dead freight, seaports, ports. freight forwarders, consolidators, freight consolidators, customs brokers, customs forwarders, brokers, customhouse brokers, customs house brokers, voyage, flight. groupage operators, shipping operators, shipping firms, shipping company, air shipping, ocean shipping, carriers, freight company, transport company, ETA, ETD, ETS. transportation, transports, ocean shipping company, freight containers, couriers, airlines, tariffs, custom tariffs, shipping dangerous goods, shipping schedules. air containers, ocean containers, shipping containers, container load, LCL, full container load, FCL, marine insurance, cargo insurance, import-export insurance. NVOCC, nonvessel operating common carriers, NVO, nonvessel owner carriers, nonvessel owning carriers, ocean freight consolidator, steamship.

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Container Dimensions and Capacity
Containers intended for intercontinental use have external nominal dimensions of:

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Length ----- 9.8125 feet (2.991m) as 10 feet; 19.875 feet (6.058m) as 20 feet; 29.9375 feet (9.125m) as 30 feet; and 40 feet (12.192m) Width ----- 8 feet (2.438m)

Height ----- 8.5 feet (2.591m) and 9.5 feet (2.896m)

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All above dimensions have permissible tolerances. The 20 feet (20') and 40 feet (40') containers are very popular in ocean freight. The 8.5 feet (8.5') high container---8 feet 6 inches (8' 6") high container---is often referred to as standard container. The demand for the high cube container---hicube---is increasing. The popular high cube container has a normal height of 9.5 feet (9.5' or 9' 6"). There are half height containers (4.25' or 4' 3" high) designed for heavy loads such as steel rods and ingots, which absorb the weight limit in half the normal space. The most widely used type of container is the general purpose (dry cargo) container (please see Container Classifications) having a nominal length and height of 20' x 8.5', 40' x 8.5', and 40' x 9.5'. Referring to the Dimension of General Purpose Containers below, the dimensions shown in the table are not fixed, that is, the external and internal dimensions may vary among containers of the same length and height. The container capacity is the total cube a container can accommodate. The term cube often refers to the cubic measurement of cargo. The capacity (i.e., the internal volume) is (1 of 4)3/17/2007 1:33:01 PM

Shipping, Logistics Management - Container Dimensions, Container Capacity, Rating, Tare Mass and Payload of Containers

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determined by multiplying the internal dimensions, that is, the product of internal length, width and height. The capacity may vary among containers of the same length and height.

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Rating, Tare Mass and Payload of Containers

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Rating Rating is the maximum gross mass (or weight), that is, the maximum permissible weight of a container plus its contents. The rating of a 20' dry cargo container is 24,000 kgs. (52,900 lbs.), and a 40', including the high cube container, is 30,480 kgs. (67,200 lbs.).

Tare Mass
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Tare Mass---tare weight or tare---is the mass (or weight) of empty container, including all fittings and appliances used in a particular type of container in its normal operating condition. The tare mass of containers may vary due to the different construction techniques and materials used in the container. A 20' x 8.5' dry cargo container may weigh 1,800 kgs. to 2,400 kgs., a 40' x 8.5' may weigh 2,800 kgs. to 4,000 kgs, and a 40' x 9.5' may weigh 3,900 kgs. to 4,200 kgs. Some dry cargo containers may fall outside the indicated weight range. The reefer weighs more than a dry cargo container of the same size.

Payload Payload is the maximum permitted mass (or weight) of payload, including the dunnage and cargo securement arrangements that are not associated with the container in its normal operating condition. Therefore, Payload = Rating - Tare Mass. If the tare mass of a 20' dry cargo container is 2,400 kgs. and a 40' is 3,900 kgs., the payload of 20' is 21,600 kgs. (i.e., 24,000 kgs. minus 2,400 kgs.) and 40' is 26,580 kgs. (i.e., 30,480 kgs. minus 3,900 kgs.). However, the exporter may be prohibited to have that much payload in areas where there are legal limitations to the overall load of a vehicle. In exporting, it is common to encounter a payload of 17,500 kgs. or less in the 20' container, and 24,000 kgs. or less in the 40' container.

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The Marking and Identification of Containers
The rating, tare mass and payload of a container is marked on its wall, usually on the end (rear) door in the case of an end-loading dry cargo container. (2 of 4)3/17/2007 1:33:01 PM

Shipping, Logistics Management - Container Dimensions, Container Capacity, Rating, Tare Mass and Payload of Containers

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Each container has an identification code or container number---a combination of the 4letter characters that identify the owner (the operator of container) and the 7-numeric characters that identify the container. The container number can be found on the outer and inner side walls. The container number is entered on the bill of lading to facilitate the identification and tracking of the container and the cargo.

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Table and Diagram: Dimension of General Purpose Containers

Dimension of General Purpose Containers Recommended Load Volume Cubic Feet Cubic Meter

CONTAINER Nominal Dimension External Length 20' 6.096 m 19' 4.25" 5.899 m 40' 12.192 m 39' 5.375" 12.024 m 40' Hicube 12.192 m 39' 5.375" 12.024 m Width 8' 2.438 m 7' 8.625" 2.353 m 8' 2.438 m 7' 8.625" 2.353 m 8' 2.438 m 7' 8.625" 2.353 m Height 8' 6" 2.591 m 7' 10" 2.388 m 8' 6" 2.591 m 7' 10" 2.388 m 9' 6" 2.896 m 8' 10" 2.692 m

Capacity Cubic Feet Cubic Meter


1170 cft 33.131 cbm

1000 cft 28 cbm



2385 cft 67.535 cbm

2050 cft 58 cbm



2690 cft 76.172 cbm

2350 cft 66 cbm (3 of 4)3/17/2007 1:33:01 PM

Shipping, Logistics Management - Container Dimensions, Container Capacity, Rating, Tare Mass and Payload of Containers


Containers with the same external length may not have exactly the same internal length and width. The Recommended Load Volume (RLV) refers to the suggested maximum cube to use in calculating a full container load. The RLV can be about 10-15% less than the container capacity, depending on the export pack dimensions.

Rear view of 20' x 8.5' container

CAUTION: Miscalculated capacity may result in a large empty and unusable space or a shortage in space. For example (see 20' x 8.5' container diagram on the left), the master cartons have a uniform height of 20 inches, and the length and width are greater than the height. If 1170 cubic feet is used to calculate a 20' full container load, most likely some cartons will not fit despite the empty space of about 170 cubic feet. You cannot stuff the remaining cartons into the remaining 14" high empty space. NO online membership registration and NO access fees required to view the educational information on this EXPORT911 website.
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