There is a wide range of sizes and uses for bulk shipping containers. Whether you are shipping liquids, solids, or planning to convert your container into housing, there are important tips and strategies you can use to find the right shipping container for you.
The global seaborne container trade accounts for approximately 60% of world seaborne trade, with a value of around 12 trillion U.S. dollars in 2017. This means there are a lot of containers available, you just need to find them.
Types of Bulk Shipping Containers
The type and size of the bulk shipping container needed to depend on what you will be shipping or using the container for. There are different types of containers depending on whether you are transporting flowable goods or solid goods. Over 80% of shipping containers are 20′, 40′, or 40’HC.
Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers
FIBC (Flexible Intermediate Bulk Container) is used to transport and store flowable items such as pellets, powders, flakes, and granules. The container is made from thick woven polyethylene or polypropylene. There is usually a discharge spout at the bottom of the container.
The FIBC container can be created in virtually any size but is most common in a diameter of 110 cm. It is available in a variety of structural forms, including round, four-panel, U-panel, and baffle. The FIBC container weighs very little, making it an economical way of shipping flowable products.
One unique use for FIBC bulk containers is to replace sandbags in flood zones. An FIBC container that is 3′ x 3′ x 4′ filled with sand is 400 times the size of a regular sandbag.
Steel Bulk Shipping Containers
The most common type of shipping container is the intermodal shipping container. This reinforced steel box is available in a wide range of sizes and grades to meet your needs. They are secure, wind-resistant, watertight, long-lasting, relatively inexpensive, and retain their value.
The steel bulk shipping container is the perfect choice for a variety of storage conversion projects. It can be used for industrial or retail storage of inventory or equipment. In residential settings, the container can be used as a storage shed for yard equipment or converted into a garage. Construction businesses may convert them into offices.
Shipping containers made of corrugated weathering steel are strong and weather resistant. They can withstand earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes, including winds of up to 110 mph or more if freestanding, and winds of 175 mph or more if anchored.
Other Container Options
In addition to the standard containers noted above, there are also special containers that may fit your needs.
Open-top containers are not enclosed at the top and are used for shipping bulky large items, such as heavy equipment. They look like a shopping bag with looped handles at the top.
Refrigerated containers come in high cube and wide-body versions. They offer temperature-controlled shipping, which is ideal for produce or other temperature-sensitive products.
A bulk-hatch container is used for items such as grain or corn. This container can be loaded from the top or rear. It is vented to allow proper ventilation to prevent condensation.
Where to Buy Your Container
Getting the best deal depends on where you buy the container and the company you purchase it through. If you do volume shipping, then buying shipping containers in bulk will reduce the overall cost.
Purchasing from a retailer may cost more than if purchased from a wholesaler. Local retailers usually purchase no more than five containers at a time. They move them to their yard, clean them out, make any repairs and repaint. If you are not familiar with shipping containers this is the safer way to purchase.
You can check for used containers at local warehouses. They may have containers sitting on their lot they are willing to sell. Make sure a shipping company does not own the container you are buying. Write down the container number and call the owner to verify. This information is normally painted on the side of the container.
If you are in the market for only one or two shipping containers, you will not be able to purchase wholesale. To buy from a wholesaler you must be an approved vendor and be able to provide details on your tax status.
A wholesaler is generally a shipping line or container leasing company. They normally will not sell to the retail market because of the extra paperwork required.
When buying from a shipping company the containers come directly out of the fleet and are sold “as is.” The container will not be cleaned or repainted. It will likely contain dents and corporate branding. Buying from a shipping company is not recommended unless you have experience with containers or are in good communication with an agent or broker.
When purchasing from a shipping company you may not be able to view the container you are purchasing. Due to insurance restrictions, you will probably not be allowed to access the yard where the container is located.
Finding Container Dealers
You can locate a dealer by doing a Google search for dealers in your area. Dealers have access to a large inventory and have delivery available, but they are usually higher priced.
You can look for a local seller on social media or online sales websites. These containers are often sold cheap. The seller normally has only one container and does not offer delivery.
Online auctions are another option. They often sell both new and used containers at low prices and offer buyer protection. Depending on where the seller is located the savings may be eaten up in shipping costs, as delivery is normally not included.
The easiest way to get cheap shipping containers is to go with a company that stocks both new and used containers and can deliver to your location.
Negotiate With All Sellers
Due to a huge trade deficit with other countries, there is an excess amount of containers in the United States as well as other countries. Sellers need space and are more likely to negotiate, especially if you are purchasing several containers. Request free delivery of the containers you purchase.
Evaluate Your Options
There is a wide range of options available to anyone looking for bulk shipping containers. After evaluating your needs based on product and budget, contact sellers in your area to obtain a quote.