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Shipping Container, Sea Can or Conex Box

What Do You Call Them?

Bison Group

14 Apr 5 Minutes


What Do You Call Them?

Shipping Containers are ubiquitous in the modern world, transporting goods and products across land and sea. However, there are many different terms used to describe these large steel boxes that can be confusing for those not familiar with the industry. In this discussion, we explore some of the most common names for shipping containers and their origins.

Shipping Container

Perhaps the most universal name is simply "Shipping Container". As the name suggests, this term describes a container that can be shipped from point to point, making it a flexible and versatile solution for transporting goods. Over time, the uses of shipping containers have become more varied, with applications ranging from storage and shipping to office space and even modular homes.

Conex Box

In the military context, the term "Conex Box" is still widely used in the US military, even when referring to the larger ISO-standard shipping containers. The name comes from "Container Express" and refers to the first intermodal shipping containers that were developed during the Korean War. These containers were used to transport and store supplies during the war and were later used again during the Vietnam War. The original Conex Box was 8 feet 6 inches long, 6 feet 3 inches wide, and 6 feet 10 inches high.

Intermodal Container

Another term that is widely used, especially within the United States, is "Intermodal Container". This name highlights the fact that these containers can be used across different modes of transport, from trucks to ships to trains. Intermodal Containers come in a variety of sizes, but they typically have a standard length of either 20 or 40 feet and a width of 8 feet.

Cargo Container or Freight Container

Another commonly used term is "Cargo Container" or "Freight Container". As the names suggest, these containers are used for transporting cargo or freight. The term "cargo container" is most commonly heard in India, the UK, or the US, while "freight container" might be heard in Australia, particularly on some mine sites.

ISO Container

"ISO Container" is another term that is used to describe shipping containers that meet the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards. In order to become ISO certified, a container must meet specific dimensions.

Sea Container or Ocean Container

"Sea Container" or "Ocean Container" refers to containers that are designed to withstand the elements when shipping across the ocean. These containers have seals that keep out the elements and protect the cargo inside.

Container Van

In the Philippines, shipping containers are often referred to as "container vans". The term "van" refers to the fact that the container is a closed, box-like structure. Similarly, in Canada and the US, shipping containers are sometimes referred to as "dry vans", which describes a container used only for dry cargo.

Sea Can

"Sea can" is another common reference to a shipping container. This name is thought to be derived from the container's ability to withstand the elements when out on the high seas.


Overall, there are many different terms used to describe shipping containers, reflecting their diverse uses and origins. Whether you call them shipping containers, cargo containers, or Conex boxes, these versatile structures have revolutionized the way goods are transported around the world.

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