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ISO Intermodal Container Definition and Facts in 100 Words

November 18, 2020 Rick LaGore

ISO intermodal containers - 20', 40', 45'

Definition of an ISO Container

An ISO container is an international intermodal container that is manufactured according to the specifications outlined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).  

ISO containers are suitable for ship, rail and truck.

Container capacity is usually communicated in twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU’s).  

The basis of the ISO container is to guarantee the container will withstand extreme environments and structural integrity that will be placed on it through its travels and movements over land and sea.  The ISO standardization also ensures the containers meet the size and durability requirements to allow them to stack safely and uniformly on steamships and trains.

ISO containers are inspected every 30 months by a certified inspector to ensure the container is within specs.

Types of ISO Containers

  • Dry
  • Refrigerated (reefer)
  • Insulated
  • Tank
  • Open Top
  • Flat Rack

Roughly 90% ISO containers are either 20’ or 40’ dry containers.

ISO Container Sizes

iso container sizes

The creation of the ISO container is often thought of as one of the most influential and important inventions that put international trade into hyperbolic proportions.  The reason for this is prior to its creation most goods were transported loose or packaged in boxes, bags, barrels or other relatively small containers.

Because of the size of these packaged items, the majority of time and cost associated with shipping was loading and unloading the ship.  By creating a uniform box that could easily load onto a ship safely solved the issue.

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