Practitioners may want to have a container definition, which should be easy to understand and remember, and which can help to distinguish containers in general and in standard meaning.
The term “container” in general is a receptacle such as a can, jar… used to hold or store things in.
In maritime industry, in the early day, that term describes equipment using to store cargo for transport. Examples of these include crates, wooden boxes, drums, intermediate bulk containers…
In recent decades, together with development of intermodalism, the term “container”, or “freight container” using in shipping world becomes more popular, it describes standard transport equipment suitable for multimodal transportation. Oxford Dictionary define a container as “a large metal or wooden box of a standard size in which goods are packed so that they can easily be lifted onto a ship, train, etc. to be transported.”
According to ISO 668:1995(E), a freight container is an article of transport equipment:
a) of a permanent character and accordingly strong enough to be suitable for repeated use;
b) specially designed to facilitate the carriage of goods by one or more modes of transport, without intermediate reloading;
c) fitted with devices permitting its ready handling, particularly its transfer from one mode of transport to another;
d) so designed as to be easy to fill and empty;
e) having an internal volume of 1 m3 (35,3 ft3) or more.
Those conditions seem a little hard to memorize, yet they’re useful to recognize whether a receptacle falls in the category of freight container. For example, a crate or a box does not satisfy the permanent character and is not suitable for repeated use: when unloading the cargo inside, the compartment must be broken and thus can not be re-used in an intact form. Therefore, a crate and a box are not a freight container. We can use the same test to decide whether a receptacle can be categorized in the freight container or not.