What sea container is right for my transport

Container transport, Sea freight

40ft. High Cube Container, Reefer, Flat Rack,... – with so many container types, it can be difficult to choose the right one for your cargo. After all, it should be the most efficient and cost-effective solution for your transport. But how do you choose the right sea freight container? Freightfinders has summarised the most important points for you.

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What are the main features to look out for in a sea freight container? Focus on these three points!

To be able to find the right container, there are certain facts, you should consider. These include::

  • Volume
  • Loading and Unloading
  • Requirements

Of course, other factors may also play a role. However, these form a general framework, which greatly simplifies the search.


The dimensions of the container and the goods probably play the most important role and are therefore also the first thing, you should pay attention to, as the goods must have enough space to be loaded and also safely stowed. However, there must not be too much space, but also not too little, so that the cargo cannot fall, slip around or damage other goods. So, if you know the exact dimensions of your cargo and the containers, you can match them. Examples of container dimensions and what you might store in them can be found below.

Loading and Unloading

Another point is loading and unloading. This is also partly related to the dimensions of the containers and the goods. Depending on the sea freight container, the openings have fixed dimensions, which is why it is also necessary to consider whether the goods pass through the doors without any problems. By the way, the roof of the container also offers another possibility of loading and unloading, if it can be removed. Several doors can also save time, as this allows goods to be loaded and unloaded from several sides.


Do you want to ship refrigerated goods, or do you need good ventilation for your cargo? Then a normal container will not be able to meet the requirements of your transport. In order to ship your goods properly, you need a container that meets this special need. For example, a reefer or a ventilated container could be a solution for this.

Freightfinders will find a suitable solution!

Despite the observance of these three points, there may still be subtleties but also uncertainties on your part. That's why most freight forwarders offer help in choosing the container. This can take the form of automated processes or expert advice. This requires only the dimensions and information about your cargo. That way, transports can be planned and carried out efficiently.

Find cheap prices for your recurring sea freight container transports by using our Major Customer Platform!

Measurements and short information on different container types – what fits in a container?

ISO Container

The ISO container is a container with a standardised size. These standards play an important role in international trade, as this allows ships to be loaded sensibly, warehouses to be used efficiently and containers to be optimally stacked. The container type is available in different sizes, such as e.g. 20 feet, 40 feet, or in the High Cube (HC) variant. In the following, you will find examples on what fits into such an ISO sea freight container and also a table with the dimensions.

20ft. ISO Container

A 20 ft. container can be very practical. Especially, if you want to ship it as FCL (Full Container Load). From a car to the complete contents of an 80 sqm apartment, a lot fits in. If you want to ship your goods palletized, 10 GMA (North American Pallet Standard) and about 11 EURO pallets fit into a 20ft. Container. Here, of course, it depends on how high your pallets are. Therefore, always calculate the cubic meters of your cargo and compare it with the CBM of the container.

40ft. ISO Container

With a 40 ft. container you can also ship your goods as FCL, if you need this space e.g. for the relocation of a 100m2 apartment or for shipping approx. 23 EURO pallets (20 GMA pallets). But if you need more than 33CBM for your cargo, but if a 40ft. container is too large, you can also transport your goods as LCL (Less than Container Load). Thus, this container type offers a wide range of options.

40ft. ISO HC Container

If a 40ft. Container would have just the right area, but your cargo is minimally too high, a high cube container is recommended here. The additional 40 cm height can make up exactly the space that is missing without having to resort to an open top container, which may not adequately protect the goods.

Measurements ISO Container

The following dimensions are the inner dimension of the respective container.

Weight ISO Container

 Container Type  Lenght  Width  Height  Volume 
 20ft. ISO  5900 mm  2350 mm  2395 mm  33,2CBM 
 40ft ISO  12032 mm  2350 mm  2395 mm  67,7CBM 
 40ft. HC ISO  12032 mm  2350 mm  2700 mm  76,3CBM 

 Container Type  Tare  Max. Payload  Max. Gross 
 20ft. ISO  2.370 kg  30.130 kg  32.500 
 40ft. ISO  3.750 kg  28.750 kg  32.500 
 40ft. HC ISO  3.900 kg  28.600 kg  32.500 

Reefer/Refrigerated Container

The reefer is THE solution for temperature-sensitive goods, such as e.g. food or even medicines. The integrated cooling unit ensures the ideal temperature at all times. Thus, even at high outside temperatures, a seamless cold chain can be guaranteed. A distinction is made between active and passive cooling in this type of container.

  • Passive: The "Conair container", colloquially also called an insulating container, offers a higher overall internal volume. Cooling at sea is carried out via the ship's cooling system. At the terminal or during rail/road transport, cooling is guaranteed by cooling systems at the terminal or plug-in cooling units.
  • Aktive: The "Integral Container" has an integrated cooling system. However, the built-in cooling unit reduces the payload. In addition, it must be noted that a distance of at least 12 cm remains from the goods to the roof of the container, so that the built-in air ducts and openings are not covered.

Although both container types comply with the ISO standard, the average volume of the actively cooled container decreases.

 Refrigeration  20ft. Container  40ft. Container  40ft. HC Container 
 Passive  32 – 34 CBM  57 – 58 CBM  67 – 68 CBM 
 Aktive  26 -28 CBM  54 – 55 CBM  66 CBM 

Ventilated Container

The ventilated container is a standard container with integrated ventilation. There are the passive ventilated ones, which allow air supply through waterproof slots. In the case of active ventilation, an integrated blower ensures that the goods are ideally supplied with oxygen. This type of container is often used, for example, in coffee transport.

Flat Rack

With the flat rack, the side can be folded away to completely free the sides of the container. The front and rear sides remain stable enough to secure the cargo sufficiently. Usually, this type of container is used for machines and particularly bulky and heavy goods, such as building materials or similar. The Flat Rack Container is available in the common sizes ISO 20ft. and ISO 40ft.

Hard Top

The Hard Top is the ideal container for loading and unloading very large goods. The fact that the 450-kilogram roof can be removed allows the cargo to enter the container by crane without being forced through the narrow sea freight container doors. For example, the Hard Top offers the possibility to transport extremely high goods without any problems, as the roof does not necessarily have to be reattached. The usual sizes are 20 feet and 40 feet. These sizes are also available as High Cube.

Open Top

The Open Top is comparable to the Hard Top. In contrast to this, however, there is no steel roof, only a tarpaulin. Thus, the disadvantage of this container type is that it is not stackable. Still, the advantage is that oversized cargo can be concealed and the price is usually also slightly cheaper.

Side Door

The Side Door Container offers an optimal solution for easy loading and unloading, as there are several doors on its sides and thus specific sections can be opened. Moreover, the Side Door is also an ideal storage container. Another advantage is that bulky goods don’t have to be loaded through the doors of the front side. The Side Door is available as a regular 20 ft., 40 ft., 40 ft. High Cube Container.

Double Door

The Double Door Container has doors on both ends. Therefore, it doesn't matter how the container is standing – it can always be loaded and unloaded. When the doors are accessible from both sides, it can also reduce the loading and unloading time.

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