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Container Handling Equipment Options

In-House Container Handling Equipment Options For Hydrogen Operators

Bison Group

5 Jul 4 Minutes


Find Your Best Match

Here we profile the five different categories of container handling equipment available to hydrogen operators wanting to avoid third party lift services and take container handling in house. The categories progress from economical to more capital hungry solutions. Within each category there are a range of equipment configurations and brands available in the market.

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#1 Container Lifting Jacks

Container lifting jacks, also known as container hoists, are sturdy hydraulic or mechanical devices used to transfer ISO containers between the ground and truck trailers. They are portable machines that come in various sizes and lift capacities, depending on the size and weight of the containers they are designed to lift. Some hoists have automatic self leveling and advanced safety features built in.

To transfer a container from the ground up onto a trailer, the hoists are attached to the ISO corners of the container. The hoist is then activated, lifting the container high enough for the trailer to reverse under, so the container can be lowered onto the trailer. That process is reversed to offload containers from trailers back to the ground or onto container skates.

Low capital and operating cost
High load capacity (88,000 lb | 40,000 kg)
Handles all ISO container types & sizes
Portability enables multi-site use

Vertical lift only
Doesn't move or stack containers
Takes time to set up & operate

#2 Container Skates

Container skates, also known as container trolleys or castors, are specialized wheeled platforms designed to facilitate the movement of ISO containers. They usually consist of a sturdy frame fitted with multiple heavy-duty castor wheels, allowing containers to be towed or pushed across relatively smooth, level surfaces. They are typically placed underneath the corners of the container. Container skates offer a practical and efficient solution for repositioning or relocating containers within limited spaces, such as manufacturing facilities, reducing the need for heavy machinery.

Low capital and operating cost
High load capacities available
Works with most ISO Container types and sizes
Compact size operates in tight spaces

Not suited to rough or uneven surfaces
Takes time to set up & operate
Requires a separate lift solution (eg. Bison C-Lift)
Requires a tug or forklift to move container

#4 Heavy Container Handlers

Heavy container handlers are mobile machines, capable of lifting long (40 foot) and heavy (up to 70,000 lb or 32,000 kg) ISO containers and moving them over short distances around a facility. Some machines will stack containers on top of each other too. There are a few different equipment types that sit inside this category:

  • Reach Stackers & Top Loaders: These machines have long, telescoping booms that can extend up to multiple containers high, allowing them to lift, move and stack heavy containers. They are commonly used in ports, freight yards and other locations with high container throughput.

  • Mini Straddle Carriers: A mini-straddle carrier is a more compact wheeled machine that straddles the container, lifting it on and off trailers and moving them around a facility. Compared with a reach stacker or top loader, a mini straddle is generally more maneuverable, and has lower ground pressure, meaning they cause less damage to unreinforced surfaces.

High load capacity
Lift, move and stack containers quickly
Mobility supports multiple operating areas
Advanced safety features available

High capital and operating cost
Requires wide, open space to operate
Risk of damage to ground surface
Requires ticketed operator
Large storage footprint

#5 Overhead Gantry

An overhead gantry crane is a large steel structure with horizontal beams that span a designated area. A hoist mechanism, typically powered by an electric motor and controlled by an operator located on the ground, traverses the beams and lifts ISO containers from the top corners. Containers can be lifted, moved, and in some cases, stacked on top of each other. A gantry crane can be installed both outdoors and inside a building.


Allows for efficient use of indoor space
Lift, move, and stack containers quickly
Electric powered means no indoor emissions
Advanced safety features available

High capital and maintenance cost
Handling is limited to specific area
Fixed installation
Requires compatible building or space

Now that you have reviewed your operations and assessed the container handling options available, whether you’re integrating electrolyzers or fuel cell systems into containers, or distributing hydrogen using multiple-element gas containers (MEGCs), you will inevitably see opportunities to improve and optimize the way you handle containers in your operations.