Types of Intermodal Shipping Container

The most common type of intermodal shipping container is referred to as a dry freight container and comes in common sizes of 20 foot and 40 foot length. There are variations on the available lengths of cargo containers, as well as height variations too.

The other main types of cargo container are explained below, and just about all of them come in what is referred to as a high cube container, allowing an extra foot of height. The hi cube also called the HQ or HC container is popular for building container homes for the added height it provides which serves to open up the internal spaces.

See more on standard container sizing to help you you plan your shipping container building project.


Container Types

stacked intermodal shipping containers

Other commonly used container types include..

  • Flat rack, flat bed, or platform containers – essentially they are a container without sides or top. They can come with fixed ends, collapsible ends, or no ends at all to accommodate a variety of cargo types. Their lack of structural elements makes them unsuitable for most shipping container housing projects.

  • Open top containers – similar to a standard intermodal container but without a fixed roof. This allows machinery and over-height cargo to be loaded into the container by crane.

  • Refrigerated containers (known as Reefers) – suitable for perishable goods like meat and fruit and vegetables which need to be kept within specific temperature ranges. A refrigerated cargo container will be fitted with variable temperature controller, so that it acts like a portable fridge.
  • Insulated shipping container – because of the poor thermal qualities of steel, insulated containers are available for containers that are used as portable office space, accommodation and other applications where a degree of thermal insulation is required
  • Custom containers are also available for liquids, dangerous goods, bulk materials as well as ventilated units for some food types, and those for shipping clothing (on racks) and other more specific requirements.


The most popular ISO containers for building are the standard intermodal container and the hi cube container.



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