This page last updated: May 17, 2003.

News: I added an entirely new page dedicated to Australian domestic containers thanks to a huge photo contribution from James Koretsky.




Contact me at: [email protected]

Photos by Matt Hannes unless noted.

Background Information on Non-Standard Containers:

The International Standards Organization (ISO) set container dimension standards in the mid-1960s. These standards allowed for containers with lengths of 10, 20, 30, or 40 feet. Width was fixed at 8'-0" and height was 8'-6". The 10' and 30' containers never caught on, and few were ever used in international service. Later on, "high-cube" containers became a standard with 9'-6" height. In the early 1980s, APL introduced the 45' high-cube container, which also became an international standard container.

Since several shipping companies were operating containers before the ISO set standard sizes, they were left with fleets of containers that could not be interchanged with other operators. Companies who were in this situation included Matson Navigation, SeaTrain Lines, and container-pioneer Sea Land Service. Since Matson operates a closed route (that is, one without much interchange with other shippers), it chose to disregard the standard and continues to use 24' containers today. SeaTrain eventually converted to ISO standards, as did Sea Land, although the latter's fleet would not be fully standardized until the mid-1980s.

There are also many specialized containers in existence that do not interchange and so do not follow the ISO standard sizes. In addition, North America and Europe both have "domestic" containers, which do not travel outside their respective home continents. Europe's domestic containers generally follow the ISO lengths but have varying widths.

Enough chat...on with the photos:

Matson Navigation's 24' containers:

Matson Navigation Company initiated Pacific containerization in 1958 with a fleet of 24' containers. Matson chooses to continue to use 24' containers today on its routes from the West Coast to Hawaii.

A Matson 24' corrugated-side dry van container. (Photo by Ed McCaslin)

A Matson 24' fixed-end flatrack container. (Photo by Gary Hannes)

A Matson 24' refrigerated container.

SeaTrain's 27' containers:

SeaTrain (who went bankrupt in 1981) was known for its fleet of 27' containers. They're almost entirely extinct these days, except if you're lucky enough to find one in use as a storage unit like the one below.

An old SeaTrain 27' dry van (built by Gindy back in the 1960s).

Sea-Land's 35' containers:

Sea-Land Service, the company who created the sea container as we know it today, started out with 35' containers and continued to use them through the early 1980s.

Here are three views of SEAU 20507, a 35' refrigerated container, courtesy of Jim Eager:

SEAU 20507 front view

SEAU 20507 side view

SEAU 20507 rear view

European domestic containers:

Many domestic European container operators use 2.5-meter wide containers. This is to accomodate slightly larger European pallets. Although these containers sometimes have an ISO-assigned size code, they are not considered a world standard size. Some containers also have special lengths...7.45 meters (24.4 feet) and 13.60 meters (44.6 feet) are common.

ALNU 7452706; registered owner is ECR Gordijn Containers BV. This is a 7.45m long ISO type D5G1 container. Note the stacking posts at 20' to allow it to stack with standard 20' ISO containers. This is also a high-cube container (9'-6" tall). (Photo by Cor Rood)

NEW! AXIS 13.60x2.5x2.5m container. ISO class KDG1. (Photo by A. Lindner)

Here's a couple Groupo Leche Pascual containers of ISO type 4MG3 (40' long, >2.5m wide, 9'-0" tall). GLPU 401009, GLPU 4020765, GLPU 4030104. (Photos by Cor Rood)

JSV "curtain-side" containers. These are probably longer than 20'. They are definitely high-cubes. (Photo by Cor Rood)

MMSU 100015. Owned by Mosca Maritima of Spain. This is a 40' long, 2.5m wide, 9'-6" tall container. (Photo by Cor Rood)

NEW! Nizzi tarped half-height flat rack. I can't determine the dimensions of this container. (Photo by A. Lindner)

NPWU 4000340. Owned by Navieras Pinillos of Spain. Another 40' long, 2.5m wide, 9'-6" tall container. ISO code is 4EG0. (Photo by Cor Rood)

RNFU 4-7150495. Owned by RENFE (Spanish Railway). 40' long, 2.5m wide, 9'-6" tall. ISO code is 4410-2. (Photo by Cor Rood)

Some CDH bulk containers used for carrying cocoa beans in Europe. They look like they're 20' long, but the ISO code of 7280 suggest that they're longer. Cor Rood indicates that they are 8'-6" wide. (Photo by Cor Rood)

Top view of these CDH containers - note how the ISO corner castings are inset to allow the containers to be lifted with standardized cranes. (Photo by Cor Rood)

A European Containers 13.60m corrugated-side dry van container. This container is 13.60 meters long and 2.50 meters wide, which makes it slightly smaller than an American 45' domestic container. (Photo by Cor Rood)

A Containerships European-spec 45' container. Like the European Containers box above, this is built to slightly-different dimensional specifications than standard ISO 45' containers. (Containerships photos courtesy of Juha Leskinen)

A Containerships 20' container that is 8'-6" wide.

A Containerships 20' container that is 9'-0" wide.

Two P&O Ferrymasters European domestic containers. FMBU 0010852 is a 13.60m container similar to the ISO 45' boxes. FMBU 4000209 looks like a 40' long container but is probably 2.50m wide. (Photos by Cor Rood)

Here are some United Container Systems 7.15m "curtain-side" containers: UXXU______, UXXU 6000346, UXXU 6000515. These are 2.55m wide to carry European pallets. Photos courtesy of Carsten Seier.

More UXXU swap bodies from Europe. These are 7.45m long, 2.55m wide, and between 2.60 and 3.15m tall. Note the roll-up doors. Photos: UXXU 6217835, UXXU 6216799. (Photos by Carsten Seier)

Australian domestic containers

Proceed to the Australian container photo gallery

Chiquita's 43' refrigerated containers:

Chiquita uses a 43' long, 8'-6" tall refrigerated container design. At first glance it looks like a regular 40' reefer, but the ISO code of 9232 tells you that something's not quite right. The '92' indicates that it must be longer than 40'. And it's not 45' long either (like I originally thought).

A Chiquita 43' refrigerated container. (Photo by John L. Becker)

Alberta Wheat Pool GrainTainers:

I don't know a whole lot about Alberta Wheat Pool's experimental GrainTainers other than they're not in use anymore. I can't tell the dimensions - they look to be 30 or 35 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 10 feet tall.

Alberta Wheat Pool Graintainer web page at Jonn's Site of Railway Equipment.

A Maltainer container. (Photo by Alan Morris)

Looks similar to the Alberta Wheat Pool Graintainers. Anyone know any history of these?

Santa Fe's "A-Stack" containers

Back in the early 1980s, Santa Fe experimented with a handful of specialized containers designed to carry grain and other bulk commodities in one direction, and general merchandise in the other. The result was the A-Stack, which got its name from the A-shaped cross section. Well, the A-Stack idea never really worked, and the A-Stack containers were scrapped or used as MOW storage units, like the one shown below in Riverside, CA.

A Santa Fe A-Stack container, SFCM 950004.

Here's an end view of SFCM 950004.

Other miscellaneous containers:

This appears to be some kind of pressurized gas-tube container. It is definitely longer than 20', maybe 24' or 30'. So it's pretty strange. The reporting marks are CP 8401. (Photo by Ed McCaslin)

This is a specialized container for hauling wind mill blades owned by Vestas Wind Systems. It is 49 meters long. (Photo by Lorenz Olff)




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