We’ve been talking in the office about what is the most universal name for a shipping container, and what other terms are used to describe these large steel boxes that move cargo from point to point, across land and sea. We thought we’d share some of these names with you and where they came from...


Shipping container

A fairly universal name from what we can gather and explains the purpose of the container – it can be shipped from point-to-point. Its uses are becoming more and more varied, from storage and shipping to office space and even modular homes!


Conex box

The Container Express (or Conex) Box was developed during the Korean War, it was used to transport and store supplies during this war and again during the Vietnam War, this was the first of the intermodal shipping containers. A prototype if you will. The original Conex box was 259 cm (8 ft 6 in) long, 191 cm (6 ft 3 in) wide, and 208 cm (6 ft 10 in) high.

This was the first worldwide intermodal container. This term is still widely used within the US Military even when referring to the larger ISO-standard shipping containers.


Intermodal container

Most commonly heard in the United States, the name means they can be used across different modes of transport from truck to ship to train. They come in different heights, but have a standard length of either 20 or 40 feet in length, width of 244 cm (8 ft).


Cargo or freight container

A fairly descriptive name, it contains cargo or freight therefore it is a cargo or freight container. Cargo container is most commonly heard in India, UK or USA and freight container might be heard in Australia, maybe on some of their mine-sites.


ISO container

These are containers that meet the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards. In order to become ISO certified the container must meet specific dimensions.


Sea or ocean container

This name, as it implies, means the container seals keep out the elements and therefore keeps cargo safe and dry when shipping across the ocean.


Container van

This term is most commonly heard in the Philippines. They are turning old container vans


Dry van

Sometimes referred to as a dry van – this is a container used only for dry cargo.


Sea can

This is one of the more common references to a shipping container. It’s thought they are referred to in this way for their ability to withstand the elements when out on the high seas.

And this list is not exhaustive of references, we’re curious to know what you call a shipping container, in any language, so please post in the comments section and let us know.

If you want to know more about shipping containers, read our blog on 11 COMMON CONTAINER TYPES.

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