20 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Shipping Containers

Shipping containers are all around us, whether it’s in recycled buildings, storing things in the back yard or on the back of a truck taking goods to a local department store. Not a day goes by where you aren’t using something that has been stored in or transported in a shipping container. Plenty of us think we know a lot about them, but here are some facts that you probably didn’t know about the humble metal box.

Shipping Container Facts (That You Probably Weren’t Aware Of):

1. Shipping by Sea Container is the Most Environmentally Friendly Way to Transport Goods

Because a ship carries so many containers, it uses comparatively less emissions to transport a container than trucks, trains & planes. To put it in context: sending a container across the world by ship often emits less greenhouse gas emissions than getting it from the port to its final destination.

2. Container Ships Are Massive – And They Are Getting Even Bigger

The biggest container ships in the world can carry around 15,000 – 18,000 standard shipping containers. That’s a lot of stuff!

3. More Containers Are Getting Transported Every Year By Sea

There are around 20 million shipping containers travelling across the ocean each and every year. With increases in population and changes in demographics worldwide, this is only going to increase.

4. If You Lined Up All of Maersk’s Containers – There’d Be A Lot of Them

If lined up end to end they’d stretch halfway around the planet, stacked they’d be 7,500 times the height of the Eiffel Tower. That’s a whole load of shipping containers.

5. There’s a Girl Shortage on Container Ships

98% of shipping container ship crews are male, and around 33% of crews are from the Philippines.

6. Shipping Containers Were Invented by the United States Military

Up until the 1950s most products were shipped in a variety of different sized crates or as bulk goods. It wasn’t until 1956 that Malcolm McLean invented the precursor to what is now the modern ISO shipping container.

7. They Go Missing All the Time

They might be big and hard to lose, but at least 10,000 shipping containers are lost at sea each and every year. Blame the rough seas, and of course – pirates. This works out to be around 1 shipping container lost every hour, so remember to insure your container when shipping.

8. Most Shipping Containers are Made In China

Around 97% of them to be exact. The main reason being that a lot of cheap products that are shipped are made in China, so it makes economic sense to construct them close to the source. They are then reused or, once they get to a certain age, sold or modified into a wide variety of things.

9. Shanghai Port is Busy When it Comes to Containers

So busy that it’s the busiest container port in the world, processing 29 million annually. That’s a lot compared to the United States number one port at Long Beach that processes around 6.5 million every year.

10. Out of Service

60% of shipping container crews have absolutely no way to call home while at sea, while 90% have no functioning internet. That’s a lot of people who don’t get to check in on Facebook every day!

11. Container Ships are Everywhere

There are around 55,000 container ships sailing the ocean or docked in a harbour at any given time. That’s a lot of container ships ensuring that international trade runs smoothly.

12. There Are Even More Sailors

Around 1.5 million of them.

13. Most Containers Aren’t Checked By Customs

That’s right – customs only check around two to ten percent of all containers that are shipped internationally worldwide, the rest just roll on through. Checking every single shipping container would result in a complete and utter bottleneck for international trade.

14. Unique Identifiers

Every single shipping container has it’s own unique ID number – similar to your number plate on a car. This allows containers to be tracked anywhere in the world while they are being used.

15. Half A Billion

Estimates vary, but some sources suggest that as of 2010 there were over 530 million shipping containers of various sizes and load out in active service around the world. That’s a lot!

16. One Huge Train

If you unloaded all of the containers from the largest container freight vessel in the world you’d end up with a train that was 44 miles (70.8 km) long. 

17. Lots of Cans

A standard container can hold around 25,000 tin cans. That’s a lot of baked beans or spaghetti.

18. Keeping it Cool

Around half of all containerised trade is in refrigerated reefer containers. This allows fresh goods to be shipped even further around the world, increasing the size of potential markets significantly for importers and exporters.

19. The Biggest Container Mansion in Australia

Gateway Container Sales and Hire supplied all of the containers for the biggest container building in the country – 31 containers in total. To put it in perspective, the biggest container community in the world is the Keetwonen Container City in Amsterdam with 1000 complete residential apartments.

20. The Largest Container Market in the World

If you are ever in Kyrgyzstan make sure you check out the largest container bazaar. Constructed from over 7,000 recycled shipping containers and employing around 20,000 people, the Dordoy Bazaar is constructed completely from recycled shipping containers.

We know all there is to know about shipping containers

Want to find out more interesting facts about the shipping industry? Check out Rose George’s book “Ninety Percent of Everything”. Better still, give the team of shipping container experts at Gateway Container Sales & Hire a call. Whether you need a second hand shipping container for storage, recommendations for a builder or architect to construct your new container home or modifications to your portable container office – our team is here to help.

Ready to start your container journey?
Contact Us
About Mark Finnegan

You may be interested in

modern container offices
Breaking the Mould: How Modern Container Offices are Changing the Business Landscape

Discover the sleek and efficient solution for your office needs with modern container offices.

The Beginner’s Guide To Securing Your Shipping Container

Shipping containers are an excellent investment for anyone looking for …

Where to Store a Shipping Container?

Shipping containers make the perfect blank slate for all sorts …

Creative Ideas for Decorating a Shipping Container Gym

A shipping container gym can offer a unique and functional …