A Guide to Transporting Shipping Containers


Transporting shipping containers can seem like a hefty task to undertake. From packing correctly to understanding the regulatory standards of shipping across the country or internationally, there are a lot of logistics to plan.

Read on to learn how to transport a shipping container safely and effectively so that your cargo can get to where it needs to be in one piece.

How Much Does it Cost to Move a Shipping Container?

Using a cargo container to transport items comes with a lot of perks, the price being one of them. The average cost of moving a container within the United States is about $3,000, with the price ranging from $2,000 to $5,000. Size, weight, and distance all impact the final cost.

Shipping a container internationally will naturally cost more since you need to factor in getting the container to the shipping port, whether that be by truck or train, the cost of unloading the container, customs duties and fees, and potential inspection costs.

Experts also recommend getting insurance when moving items in a container. While it might be tempting to save and skip out on this extra fee, it will be worth it in the long run in case something goes wrong.

Packing Best Practices

Before the actual transportation part can begin, it is important to thoroughly evaluate your items and determine the best way to pack them to protect both the goods and container itself.

To avoid damaging items in transit, you must take into account the fragility and weight of the cargo as well as how much will actually be stored within the container. It is recommended to securely pack and fasten heavy equipment and boxes since shifting items inside might impact the balance of the container. Heavier items should be loaded first toward the front and on the floor. Lighter items can then be placed on top.

While you don’t want to overpack your container, you also don’t want anything sliding around inside. Gaps between items should be filled with packing materials like bubble wrap, cardboard, stretch film, and other padding.

Securing Your Cargo

Now that your container is packed, it is important to secure the container firmly to the truck or boat that will be used for transport. Most likely, the move will require the use of a heavy-duty forklift or crane to place the container on a trailer or flatbed truck. Forklifts should only be used for a 20-foot container, since a larger container would be too big for the machine. Operating this machinery requires special licenses, so it’s best to hire a pro who is qualified and experienced.

Once on the truck, trailer or ship, you’ll need to properly fasten the container in place. Lashing is the process of securing cargo containers using ropes, cables, and chains to prevent containers from shifting or tipping during a bumpy drive or rough seas.

If your container is traveling overseas, the placement of the container on the ship is extremely important. The type of container and its contents need to be considered for optimal stacking so that loading and unloading is streamlined and everyone’s cargo arrives safely.

State Transportation Regulations

If you are moving a container across state lines, it is important to check the requirements for transporting large goods. Some states ask for permits, so be sure to check every state you drive through on the journey from point A to point B.

Researching weight limits for road, rail, and ocean travel is also a vital step in the process. The combined weight of a vehicle, trailer, and loaded container should be taken into account in addition to the size in case there are limitations due to highways, bridges and overpasses. In the United States, the combined weight of the vehicle and container should not exceed 80,000 pounds.

International Shipping Regulations

An estimated 90% of the world’s goods are transported by sea, and roughly 60% of that is packed in shipping containers. Moving items over oceans involves not only expert packing, but adherence to international regulations.

All containers traveling on a cargo ship must have a CSC plate, or safety approval plate, which is fastened to the container when it is manufactured. On that plate is information including the date of manufacture, the container operator’s number, and the maximum weight-carrying capability among other information. Containers must also undergo periodic inspections to ensure they are still in good condition.

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