The abbreviation TEU stands for the English Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit and means a 20-foot standard container. TEU is the internationally standardized unit used to count these standardized ISO containers. As a standardized unit, TEU in maritime freight traffic can be used to indicate the loading capacity of cargo ships. The capacities of transhipment terminals can also be quantified in this way.

Two 20-foot ISO containers in turn correspond to one 40-foot ISO container, which is also abbreviated as FEU for Fourty-Foot Equivalent Unit. A 40-foot ISO container therefore requires the same loading capacity as two 20-foot ISO containers.

Standard ISO container

The ISO containers are standardized in terms of dimensions, so that in international intermodal transport, no transhipment is necessary, but only the container is transhipped as a loading unit. The means of transport are accordingly aligned to the ISO containers from the truck chassis to the container freight ship. The containers became relevant in connection with sea freight. Containers are the rule on cargo ships today – general cargo of individual pallets or boxes is in principle no longer loaded.

Both the 20-foot ISO container and the 40-foot ISO container have fixed dimensions. The 40-foot ISO container is exactly 40 feet (12.192 metres) long. So that two TEUs correspond exactly to one 40-foot ISO container, they are not quite 20 feet long, but only 9 feet and 10.5 inches long, leaving a gap of 3 inches. Both containers are 8 feet (2.438 metres) wide.

The height may be different for both containers. These are called low-cube or high-cube containers.

TEU in sea freight

The capacity and also the cargo of a container ship is given in TEU. The currently largest – in terms of cargo capacity in TEU – container ship has a capacity of over 21,400 TEU. Due to the high standardization by means of ISO containers and the design of the ships in TEU, the transport processes are simplified very much. This also affects the share of transport costs in the total costs of the individual product, which is often less than 10%. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)