Shipping Container Dimensions - An explaination

Are you looking up figures about shipping container dimensions for cargo calculation? You’ll find it here.

In another article, I write about shipping container sizes, and basically summarize the main content of an ISO standard about container sizes.

Frankly, although the article provides precise figures, it’s rather bored and complicated to follow up.

For practitioners, a full and easily understood table of container specifications seems more useful. That’s why I continue to write this article.

From that perspective, the dimensions mentioned here are mostly approximate and given as indication. They’re close to those of the standard containers (if ISO has stipulated ever), and variations can be found between series and makes.

The first part explains a little about main dimensions. You may want to jump directly to the table of full shipping container dimensions in the second part.

Or, we'll move on to...

Container sizes

First, let’s talk about sizes. A shipping container is a empty rectangular cube with length, width, and height. Thus, two different set of sizes should be considered: internal and external.

The internal will show space available for storage. It can be deemed as useful storage space.

The external usually get more concerned when the surrounding area is limited and may restrict the smooth movement or convenient placement of boxes. For instance, a high cube container with external height of 9’6” lying on a chassis may exceed warehouse gates or road overpasses; then the external height should be a matter.

Besides, we also care about container door sizes. Why? Because it will show us how large the doors are when they are fully open, and whether a large cargo unit can be moved smoothly into and out of the container. We won’t ship cargo with container if we cannot stuff our cargo into the equipment, will we?

Capacity and weight

With above said basic sizes, how many cubic meter (CBM) are there inside a container? The figure I'm talking about is gross capacity.

Due to corrugated wall and roof, unless you load bulk or grain cargo which can fill almost all available space, you can only have approximate space for commodity packed in specific shape (e.g. bags, crate…).

When calculating loadable cargo volume, shippers should subtract certain wasting space among cargo packages. That means net cargo volume to be loaded is likely smaller than above nominated gross volume.

Aside from capacity, we’ll discuss types of weight (gross, tare, payload) which are also important shipping container dimensions.

Gross weight (also called gross mass or rating) is total maximum permissible weight of two things: the container itself (tare weight), and maximum cargo (payload) loaded inside it:

Gross weight = Tare weight + Payload

Alright, that’s enough for talking about shipping container dimensions. It’s now time for showing what the figures really are. Let’s move on to the next part.

Shipping Container Dimensions - in detail

As to external sizes, I want to summarize as follows:

  • External width: 2.438m (8’) for all containers
  • External length: as per type indicating
  • External height: 2.591m (8’6”) for standard and 2.896m (9’6”) for high cube

And here're internal sizes and other dimensions: 


20' standard container Inside length 19'4" 5.89 m
Inside width 7'8" 2.33 m
Inside height 7'10" 2.38 m
Door width 7'8" 2.33 m
Door height 7'6" 2.28 m
Capacity 1,172 ft³ 33.18 m³
Tare weight 4,916 lb 2,229 kg
Payload 47,999 lb 21,727 kg
Gross weight 52,915 lb 23,956 kg


Dimensions Standard 40' High Cube 40'
Inside length 39'5" 12.01 m 39'5" 12.01 m
Inside width 7'8" 2.33 m 7'8" 2.33 m
Inside height 7'10" 2.38 m 8'10' 2.69 m
Door width 7'8" 2.33 m 7'8" 2.33 m
Door height 7'6" 2.28 m 8'5" 2.56 m
Capacity 2,390 ft³ 67.67 m³ 2,694 ft³ 76.28 m³
Tare weight 8,160 lb 3,701 kg 8,750 lb 3,968 kg
Payload 59,040 lb 26,780 kg 58,450 lb 26,512 kg
Gross weight 67,200 lb 30,481 kg 67,200 lb 30,480 kg


Dimensions Open Top 20' Open Top 40' 
Inside length 19'4" 5.89 m 39'5" 12.01 m
Inside width 7'7" 2.31 m 7'8" 2.33 m
Inside height 7'8" 2.33 m 7'8" 2.33 m
Door width 7'6" 2.28 m 7'8" 2.33 m
Door height 7'2" 2.18 m 7'5" 2.26 m
Capacity 1,136 ft³ 32.16 m³ 2,350 ft³ 66.54 m³
Tare weight 5,280 lb 2,394 kg 8,490 lb 3,850 kg
Payload 47,620 lb  21,600 kg  58,710 lb  26,630 kg
Gross weight 52,900 lb 23,994 kg 67,200 lb 30,480 kg


Dimensions Reefer 20'  Reefer 40' 
Inside length 17'8" 5.38 m 37'8" 11.48 m
Inside width 7'5" 2.26 m 7'5" 2.26 m
Inside height 7'5" 2.26 m 7'2" 2.18 m
Door width 7'5" 2.26 m 7'5" 2.26 m
Door height 7'3" 2.20 m 7'0" 2.13 m
Capacity 1,000 ft³ 28.31 m³ 2,040 ft³ 57.76 m³
Tare weight 7,040 lb 3,193 kg 10,780 lb 4,889 kg
Payload 45,760 lb  20,756 kg  56,276 lb  25,526 kg
Gross weight 52800 lb 23949 kg 67056 lb 30,415 kg


Dimensions Flat Rack 20'  Flat Rack 40' 
Inside length 18'5" 5.61 m 39'7" 12.06 m
Inside width 7'3" 2.20 m 6'10" 2.08 m
Inside height 7'4" 2.23 m 6'5" 1.95 m
Tare weight 5,578 lb 2,530 kg 12,081 lb 5,479 kg
Payload 47,333 lb  21,469 kg  85,800 lb  38,918 kg 
Gross weight 52,911 lb 23,999 kg 97,881 lb 44,460 kg


Dimensions Flat Rack Collapsible 20'  Flat Rack Collapsible 40' 
Inside length 18'6" 5.63 m 39'7" 12.06 m
Inside width 7'3" 2.20 m 6'10" 2.08 m
Inside height 7'4" 2.23 m 6'5" 1.95 m
Tare weight 6,061 lb 2,749 kg 12,787 lb 5,800 kg
Payload 61,117 lb  27,722 kg  85,800 lb  38,918 kg
Gross weight 67,178 lb 30,471 kg 98,587 lb 44,718 kg


Dimensions Platform 20'  Platform 40' 
Inside length 19'11" 6.07 m 40'0" 12.19 m
Inside width 8'0" 2.43 m 8'0" 2.43 m
Inside height 7'4" 2.23 m 6'5" 1.95 m
Tare weight 6,061 lb 2,749 kg 12,783 lb 5,798 kg
Payload 52,896 lb  23,993 kg  66,397 lb  30,117 kg
Gross weight 58,957 lb 26,742 kg 79,180 lb 35,915 kg

Above part shows shipping container dimensions in details. They consist of container types which are popular in shipping world today. With other special containers, the specification may vary more or less. Yet, basically, the main dimensions should be similar to above-mentioned content.

I hope you find this article useful for your work, and I appreciate your comment and feedback regarding shipping container dimensions.

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