Shipping Container VS. Sea Container: The Differences Explained

Historically wooden crates, sacks, and kegs were used to ship goods. World War II demanded an increased need for efficient shipping and in 1956 Malcolm McLean started what is now the modern-day shipping container industry. He created a rectangular box that could be shipped by water, land, and sea.

Shipping containers have revolutionized the ways goods are moved both domestically and internationally. Read on to learn the difference between a sea container and a shipping container so you can choose the right one for your needs.

The Issue

With the boon of shipping container houses, bars, and off-grid dwellings, there has been an increase in the misuse of terms among professionals and laypeople alike.

According to the Intermodal Steel Building Units and Container Homes Association, there are only two types of shipping containers. The two types are Maritime Shipping Containers and ISBU Modules. Below are the definitions of each.

What is A Sea Container?

A sea container is a Maritime Shipping Container that ships by sea, rail, or land. This container meets additional structural and weight allowances to ensure that it is safe to travel in these environments. 

The ISO, an independent, non-governmental international organization, determines the specifications of a sea shipping container. These specifications will vary based on the cargo. For example, sea containers for dry goods are different than sea containers for liquid goods.

Sea containers are often new containers that are certified to meet the rigid standards set by the ISO. 

What is a Shipping Container?

A shipping container is any container for storage or any type of container for construction or building. These do not have to be ISO certified, although many are. While it is always nice to have a brand new container, if you are looking for a stationary structure for storage, it is often cheaper to buy a used container.

The drawback of used containers is that you must ensure that they are properly cleaned out of the material they previously hauled. Depending on the type of goods stored, this may be a more complicated process. It is important to choose a company that has a history in the industry if you are purchasing a used container.

What is the Difference Between the Two?

All sea containers are shipping containers but not all shipping containers are sea containers. When a container no longer meets the specifications for being able to be shipped at sea, then it can be used as a land-based container.

Often these are the containers that are repurposed as homes or off-grid storage or living facilities. 

Now that you understand the difference between a shipping and sea container, you can choose the right container for your companies needs.

Need a Sea or Shipping Container in TX?

With our long history in the industry and hubs in Houston and Dallas, we can provide you with the sea or shipping container you need. We make it our mission to hire the right people, who sell the right products, using the right systems to make our customers happy.

Contact us and our talented team will ensure your expectations are exceeded. 

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