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Everything you need to know about 20 foot shipping containers

posted Apr 15, 2012, 5:24 AM by Julie Millington   [ updated Mar 23, 2017, 12:16 PM ]


Information on 20 foot shipping containers

Do you know how high is a 20-foot shipping container? How much cargo can it load? Can you name its main components? You’ll find such information here.

In this article, you’ll learn about 20ft container dimensions, weight limitation, buying and renting and more.

Container Dimensions

A 20ft container (also known as a sea container, storage box, sea can, marine container, ISO container, shipping container or storage container) is simply a cargo-shipping container with length of about 20 feet.

A 20ft container has an approximate external length, width, and height of about 20’, 8’, and 8’6” respectively.  The minimum internal sizes are 5.9 meter long, 2.3 wide, and 2.4 high. Exact inside figures may vary a little based on manufacturers.

All those sizes need to be in compliance with the international standard ISO 668:1995. This is so they can be used smoothly worldwide on different modes of transportation including sea, land, and train (we call such combined activities intermodal transport).

Regarding height, today there are two main types: standard and high cube container. A standard container is 8’6” in height, while a high cube is 9’6”. Unlike 40ft containers 20ft high cubes are less and less commonly used. Most of 20ft containers we see now are standard: 8’6” high.

The capacity of a 20-foot shipping container is approximately 37 cubic meters (cbm). Cargo volume loadable into a container should likely be less due to air space left among cargo packages. That means with a 37-cbm container, you can only stuff around 32 cbm of cargo inside.

Max gross weight of 20’ container is 24 tons including weight of container itself and cargo loaded inside. In Canada, a 20' dry container can carry maximum 46,000 lbs. (20.87 MT) only. 

Container's Structure and Material

Main components of a cargo-shipping container include:

·       Frame

·       Bottom and floor

·       Roof panel

·       Side wall

·       Front end wall

·       Rear end wall and door

·       Corner Fittings

A 20-foot shipping container is commonly made of corrugated steel for main structure including walls, posts, rails, and corner castings. Besides metal parts, other components include plywood floor, plastic placards, and rubber door gasket. In addition, industrial paints are needed to coat metal surfaces of containers for beauty and protection purpose.


In container shipping industry, one of the common terms is TEU, which stands for Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit.

It’s worth remembering this is a unit rather than a container. The term denotes space or capacity in equivalent to a 20 foot shipping container.  This is used to determine the capacity of container vessels, throughput of terminals, etc. For instance, a container ship with nominal capacity of 8,000 TEU means it has enough space for 8,000 container 20ft.  A 40ft container is considered 2 TEUs.

20’ container for sales

Professional shipping or logistics companies usually place order of hundreds or even thousands of containers of many types (20’, 40’, 45’, refer, flat rack, etc.). With such large contract, they usually go directly to container manufacturers or traders.

If you want to buy containers for your own usage like storage, temporary office, or even container house, you need to find out how to buy shipping containers.

By typing keywords like “20ft containers for sales” on an search engine like Google, you can easily find tons of online sources about selling shipping containers, both used and new. Still, it’s necessary to keep in mind several points while choosing online container sales:

·       Determine where to buy (manufacturers, retailer)

·       Bargain (competitive pricing, multi-purchase discounts)

·       Delivery (ground drop)

·       Payment method (credit card, cash)

·       Reputation (can you see the container, are the guaranteed wind and water tight)

Contact Containers Unlimited directly ( and we will eliminate all the guesswork. 

Rent a 20ft container

You want to rent a container for some time, e.g. a couple of weeks or a few months? We rent containers for the timing you need through Containers Unlimited at very reasonable rates.  Contact us directly for a quote including pick up and delivery, or visit our website

In brief, 20 foot shipping container is a very popular and basic receptacle in the shipping world. This article talks about dimensions, weight limitation, buying, and leasing of containers for those working in shipping industry, or those just want to know figure for their own purposes.

Any questions or comments, please contact