Containers are standardized large-capacity containers for transporting goods. A container usually has a volume of more than three cubic meters and a capacity of more than five tons. In logistics, containers are used in different sizes, but each of them is standardized in terms of dimensions.

Containers have the greatest importance for the transportation of goods by sea. In 1956 they were used for the first time by the American shipowner Malcolm McLean. The relevant size for the international movement of goods is the ISO container. This is available as a 20-foot variant with external dimensions of 6.058 m x 2.438 m x 2.591 m and as a 40-foot variant with external dimensions of 12.192 m × 2.438 m × 2.591 m (both LxWxH). There are currently over 35 million ISO containers in circulation worldwide.

The 20-foot containers are also referred to as TEU (Twenty Foot Equivalent Unit) and the 40-foot containers as FEU (Forty Foot Equivalent Unit). The capacities of today’s container ships are expressed in TEUs. The largest container ship to date, the OCCL Hong Kong, which entered service in 2017, can load over 21,400 TEUs.

However, the ISO-1 containers are not designed for the Europool pallet used in European goods traffic. Therefore, in parallel, the swap body (also swap body or swap box) has become established in Europe as the EU inland container. This container is designed for the dimensions of the Euro pallet with 0.80 m x 1.20 m. The swap body is 2.55 m wide. The swap body 2.55 m wide instead of only 2.438 m like the ISO-1 container.

Container – Intermodal Logistics

In intermodal logistics transport, different means of transport are interconnected within the logistics chain. The container has greatly contributed to the simplification of intermodal transport. Through its standardization, the transfer from one means of transport to another is easier and thus more time- and cost-efficient, since the load carrier does not have to be changed as a loading unit.

Special containers for air freight

Special air cargo containers are used to transport goods by air, so-called ULD containers. ULD stands for unit load device. In these air cargo containers, the cargo or individual pieces of cargo can be transported safely. Depending on the type of aircraft being transported, there are various ULD containers that differ in dimensions.