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  • An intermodal container is a standardized reusable steel box. They are used to store

  • and move materials and products in the global containerized intermodal freight transport

  • system efficiently and securely. "Intermodal" indicates that the container can be moved

  • from one mode of transport to another without unloading and reloading the contents of the

  • container. Lengths of containers, which each have a unique ISO 6346 reporting mark, vary

  • from 8 to 56 feet and heights from 8 feet tofeetinches. There are about 17 million

  • intermodal containers in the world of varying types to suit different cargoes.

  • For air freight the alternative and lighter IATA-defined unit load device is used. Non-container

  • methods of transport include bulk cargo, break bulk cargo and tank cars, tank trucks or oil

  • tankers used for liquids or gases.

  • History

  • The standardised steel shipping container has its origins in the 1950s when commercial

  • shipping operators and the United States military started developing such units. Shipping owner

  • Malcom McLean worked with engineer Keith Tantlinger to develop the modern intermodal container.

  • The logistics method employing these was named Container Express and was abbreviated ConEx.

  • That abbreviation evolved into a word within the American English lexicon.

  • ISO standards for containers were published between 1968 and 1970 by the International

  • Maritime Organization. These standards allow for more consistent loading, transporting,

  • and unloading of goods in ports throughout the world, thus saving time and resources.

  • The International Convention for Safe Containers is a 1972 regulation by the Inter-governmental

  • Maritime Consultative Organization on the safe handling and transport of containers.

  • It decrees that every container travelling internationally is supplied with a "CSC-Plate".

  • Description A typical container has doors fitted at one

  • end, and is made of corrugated weathering steel. Containers were originally 8-foot wide

  • by 8-foot high, and either a nominal 20-foot or 40-foot long. They could be stacked up

  • to seven units high. At each of the eight corners are castings with openings for twistlock

  • fasteners. The standard height is nowftin.

  • Taller units have been introduced, including "hi-cube" or "high-cube" units atfeet

  • inches and 10 feetinches high. The United States and Canada often use longer

  • units at 48 ft and 53 ft. The "pallet wide" containers are about 2 inches

  • wider than standard containers to accommodate Euro-pallets, common in Europe. These containers

  • feature an internal width of 2,440 mm for easy loading of two 1,200 mm long pallets

  • side by sidemany sea shipping providers in Europe allow these as overhangs on standard

  • containers are sufficient and they fit in the usual interlock spaces. Australian RACE

  • containers are also slightly wider to accommodate Australia Standard Pallets. Especially the

  • 45 ft pallet-wide high-cube shortsea container has gained wider acceptance, as these containers

  • can replace the 13.6 m swap bodies that are common for truck transport in Europe. The

  • EU has started a standardization for pallet wide containerization in the European Intermodal

  • Loading Unit initiative. Container capacity is often expressed in twenty-foot

  • equivalent units. An equivalent unit is a measure of containerized cargo capacity equal

  • to one standard 20 ft × 8 ft container. As this is an approximate measure, the height

  • of the box is not considered; for example, theftin high cube and the 4-foot-3-inch

  • half height 20-foot containers are also called one TEU. Similarly, the 45 ft containers

  • are also commonly designated as two TEU, although they are 45 feet and not 40 feet long. Two

  • TEU are equivalent to one forty-foot equivalent unit.

  • Swap body units use many of the same mounting fixings as Intermodal containers, but have

  • folding legs under their frame so that they can be moved between trucks without using

  • a crane. They are generally lighter in weight. The containers flex during transport.

  • Types

  • Variations on the standard container exist for use with different cargoes, including

  • refrigerated container units for perishable goods, tanks in a frame for bulk liquids,

  • open top units for top loading and collapsible versions. Containerised coal carriers, and

  • "bin-liners" are used in Europe. Container types include:

  • Collapsible ISO Gas bottle

  • Generator General purpose dry van for boxes, cartons,

  • cases, sacks, bales, pallets, drums in standard, high or half height

  • High cube palletwide containers for europallet compatibility

  • Insulated shipping container Refrigerated containers for perishable goods

  • Open top bulktainers for bulk minerals, heavy machinery

  • Open side for loading oversize pallet Platform or bolster for barrels and drums,

  • crates, cable drums, out of gauge cargo, machinery, and processed timber

  • Rolling floor for difficult-to-handle cargo Swapbody

  • Tank container for bulk liquids and dangerous goods

  • Ventilated containers for organic products requiring ventilation

  • Garmentainers for shipping garments on hangers Flushfolding flat-rack containers for heavy

  • and bulky semi-finished goods, out of gauge cargo. Empty flat-racks can be stacked or

  • shipped sideways in an ISO container. Specifications

  • Weights and dimensions of some common types of containers. Values vary slightly from manufacturer

  • to manufacturer. Security

  • Intermodal containers can be the target of break-ins and burglary when left unattended

  • since they often contain valuables. In these cases, a security system consisting of a motion

  • detector and panel can trigger a siren, strobe, or light to deter intruders. Many panels have

  • wireless communication so that security guards can be alerted if an alarm is triggered.

  • Motion detectors can be used as a security method. However, many break-ins occur by criminals

  • cutting through a wall of the container, so the obstructed sensor becomes useless. Tomographic

  • motion detectors work well in intermodal containers because they do not require a line of sight

  • to detect motion. The entire container is covered by a volumetric sensing mesh that

  • is not blocked by equipment or inventory. Tomographic motion detection is not prone

  • to misdetection due to dirt buildup as is the case for beams and infrared sensors.

  • Stacking containers

  • At stacking load-bearing locations, 40-foot containers are the standard unit length, and

  • 45 ft, 48 ft, and 53 ft all stack at the 40 ft coupling width. Other units can be

  • stacked on top of 20 ft units only if there are two in a row and 20 ft units cannot be

  • stacked on top of 40 ft units, or any other larger container.

  • The coupling holes are all female and it takes a double male twist lock to securely mate

  • container stacks together. Larger containers

  • 53 foot container

  • Introduced in 1989, the 53 ft shipping container is considered a High Cube container in that

  • it isftin tall on the exterior. It isft taller than standard height containers.

  • It isftin wide which makes itin wider than standard containers. The bigger

  • boxes have 60% more capacity than standard 40-foot containers enabling shippers to consolidate

  • more cargo into fewer containers. The original domestic 53-foot box OTR containers were introduced

  • in 1989, but in November 2007 the first 53 foot ocean containers were introduced. All

  • new, reinforced 53-foot boxes are built specifically for international trade and designed to withstand

  • ocean voyages. According to APL, 53-foot containers could become the transport method of choice

  • for customers moving cargo. In March 2013 APL stated that it "no longer offers vessel

  • space for 53-foot ocean containers in its trans-Pacific services. It has struggled to

  • find sufficient amount of U.S. export cargo for them, while revenue on the eastbound leg

  • has not been sufficient to cover the costs of repositioning empties back to Asia."

  • Reporting mark

  • Each container is allocated a standardized ISO 6346 reporting mark, four characters long

  • ending in either U, J or Z, followed by six numbers and a check digit. The ownership code

  • for intermodal containers is issued by the Bureau International des Containers et du

  • Transport Intermodal, hence the name BIC-Code for the intermodal container reporting mark.

  • So far there exist only four-letter BIC-Codes ending in "U".

  • The placement and registration of BIC Codes is standardized by the commissions TC104 and

  • TC122 in the JTC1 of the ISO which are dominated by shipping companies. Shipping containers

  • are labelled with a series of identification codes that includes the manufacturer code,

  • the ownership code, usage classification code, UN placard for hazardous goods and reference

  • codes for additional transport control and security.

  • Following the extended usage of pallet-wide containers in Europe the EU had started the

  • Intermodal Loading Unit initiative. This showed advantages for intermodal transport of containers

  • and swap bodies. This led to the introduction of ILU-Codes defined by the standard EN 13044

  • which has the same format as the earlier BIC-Codes. The International Container Office BIC agreed

  • to only issue ownership codes ending with U, J or Z. The new allocation office of the

  • UIRR agreed to only issue ownership reporting marks for swap bodies ending with A, B, C,

  • D or K – companies having a BIC-Code ending with U can allocate an ILU-Code ending with

  • K having the same preceding digits. Since July 2011 the new ILU codes can be registered,

  • beginning with July 2014 all intermodal ISO containers and intermodal swap bodies must

  • have an ownership code and by July 2019 all of them must bear a standard-conforming placard.

  • Handling and transport

  • Containers can be transported by container ship, semi-trailer truck, sidelifter and freight

  • trains as part of a single journey without unpacking and they are transferred between

  • modes by container cranes at container terminals. Units can be secured during handling and in

  • transit using "twistlock" points located at each corner of the container. Every container

  • has a unique BIC code painted on the outside for identification and tracking, and is capable

  • of carrying up to 20–25 tonnes. Costs for transport are calculated in twenty-foot equivalent

  • units. Rail

  • When carried by rail, containers may be carried on flatcars or well cars. The latter are specially

  • designed for container transport, and can accommodate double-stacked containers. However

  • the loading gauge of a rail system may restrict the modes and types of container shipment.

  • The smaller loading gauges often found in European railroads will only accommodate single-stacked

  • containers. In some countries, such as the United Kingdom, there are sections of the

  • rail network through which high-cube containers cannot pass, or can pass through only on well

  • cars. On the other hand, Indian Railways runs double-stacked containers on flatcars under

  • 25 kV overhead electrical wires. In order to do this, the wire must be at least 7.45

  • metres above the track, but IR is able to do so because of its large loading gauge and

  • the extra stability provided by its 1,676 mm track. China Railways also runs double-stacked

  • containers under overhead wires, but must use well cars to do so, since the wires are

  • only 6.6 metres above the track and 1,435 mm does not provide adequate stability to run

  • double-stacked containers on flat cars. Ship

  • Each year an estimated 10,000 shipping containers fall into the sea; of these 10% are expected

  • to contain chemicals toxic to marine life. Securing loads in intermodal containers

  • There are many established methods and materials available to stabilize and secure cargo in

  • intermodal containers. Conventional restraint methods and materials such as steel strapping

  • and wood blocking & bracing have been around for decades and are still widely used. Polyester

  • strapping and lashing, synthetic webbings are also common today. Dunnage bags, also

  • known as "air bags" are used to help keep unit loads in place.

  • Flexi-bags can also be directly loaded, stacked in food-grade containers. Indeed their standard

  • shape fills the entire ground surface of a 20'ISO container.

  • Non-shipping uses

  • Containers have been used for other purposes at the end of their voyaging lives. Permanent

  • or semi-permanent placement for storage is common. A container has 8,000 lb of steel,

  • which takes 8,000 kWh of energy to melt down. Repurposing used shipping containers is increasingly

  • a practical solution to both social and ecological problems.

  • Shipping container architecture employs used shipping containers as the main framing of

  • modular home designs, where the steel may be an integrated part of the design, or be

  • camouflaged into a traditional looking home. They have also been used to make temporary

  • shops, cafes, and computer datacenters, e.g., the Sun Modular Datacenter.

  • The Russian 3M-54 Klub surface-to-surface missile can be launched from a platform based

  • on shipping containers, and transported as one.

  • Intermodal containers