Exploring the Types of Shipping Containers in the UK


Exploring the Types of Shipping Containers in the UK

The world of shipping containers is more diverse and intricate than it may initially appear. These metal marvels, initially designed to simplify global trade, have evolved into a vast array of types, each tailored to meet specific transport and storage needs. 

In this guide, we’ll journey through the varied landscape of shipping containers available in the UK, dissecting their characteristics and applications.

A Brief History: The Advent of Containerisation

The idea of a standardised shipping container began in the mid-20th century. Before this, goods were individually loaded onto ships, a process both time-consuming and costly. The invention of standardised containers revolutionised global trade, leading to faster, more efficient, and cost-effective transportation. The UK, with its maritime legacy and bustling ports, quickly adopted and adapted these containers, leading to a diverse range available today.

20' New Full Side Access Container thumbnail

20′ New Full Side Access Container

The Array of Shipping Containers: From Standard to Specialised

Shipping containers in the UK come in various shapes and sizes, each designed with a specific purpose in mind. Let’s delve deeper:

Standard Container

  • Overview: The 20’ workhorse of global trade. Sturdy, reliable, and universally recognised. The use of 40’ Standards in shipping fleets is less prevalent now.
  • Typical Uses: Transport of general cargo, including electronics, apparel, and household goods.
  • Unique Features: Corrugated walls for added strength and marine-grade plywood flooring.
  • 20’ New Standard Containers are the most popular for Self-Storage sites.

High Cube Container

  • Overview: Standing at 40’ long and 1’ taller than its standard counterpart, this container offers extra volume.
  • Typical Uses: Ideal for light, voluminous cargo or items requiring a bit more height.
  • Unique Features: Extra foot in height compared to standard containers, providing additional volume.

Reefer Container

  • Overview: The chiller of the container world. Designed to transport goods at controlled temperatures.
  • Typical Uses: Essential for perishable goods, including meat, dairy, pharmaceuticals, and certain chemicals.
  • Unique Features: Integrated refrigeration unit, temperature logging, and insulated walls.

Open Top Container

  • Overview: Lacks a fixed roof, offering flexibility for certain cargo types.
  • Typical Uses: Often used for transporting machinery, tall objects, or items that need to be loaded by crane.
  • Unique Features: Comes with a weatherproof tarpaulin that can be removed and reattached.

The UK Perspective: Adapting to Diverse Needs

With the UK’s expansive trade network and its geographical positioning, there’s a diverse demand for various container types. Whether it’s transporting Scotch whisky, machinery for factories, or fresh produce from farms, the right type of container plays a pivotal role. 

This has led to an ecosystem where different container types are readily available, catering to the diverse needs of the UK market.

10' Newbuild Blue Container

10′ Newbuild Blue Container


The world of shipping containers is vast and varied. Understanding the different types available, especially in a market as dynamic as the UK, can greatly aid businesses and individuals in making informed decisions. From the basic to the specialised, each container has its unique story and purpose in the grand tapestry of global trade.

Get in touch with the team at Container Sales (UK) Ltd to discuss your shipping container needs today.