When considering renting or purchasing a shipping container for storage or other purposes, it’s important to know why you should opt for shipping containers over other storage options.

There are many factors that contribute to the popularity of a shipping container for storage and modification. In order to understand all of these factors, it’s important to know how the shipping container came to be and why you should trust its durability. Here’s everything you need to know about the brilliant invention of the shipping container.

A Brief History

Many great inventions are formed over time by dozens of experts, honing an idea until it reaches perfection. Others are the brainchild of a single creative genius. Shipping containers come from the latter.

Malcolm McLean was a simple business owner who ran a successful trucking transport service in the 1930s. In those days, goods were shipped in crates of all shapes and sizes. The vast differences between containers meant that dock workers loaded ships and trucks in a Tetris-like manner. Each load was unique, and it caused great delays in the loading process; loading and unloading a ship could take days.

McLean quickly became frustrated with this method. He knew there must be a more streamlined way to transfer cargo from the ships to his truck so that he could deliver goods to his customers in a more timely manner.

Thus, the shipping container was born.

Image of Container Stacks

Shipping containers were uniform in size and designed to stack on each other. Additionally, they could fit perfectly on a standard truck bed, which meant that they could be unloaded from the ship directly onto the truck without first being held in a storage facility.

McLean’s invention completely transformed the shipping industry. Safety standards rose. Shipping times shrank. And within 20 years of the inception of the shipping container, it became an industry standard.

How are cargo containers made?

Shipping containers are designed to withstand some of the worst weather the Earth sees. Since they must survive multiple trips across the ocean, they need to be able to defy pounding saltwater, heavy rains, insatiable winds, and the harsh sun.

The outside of the shipping container is made of solid steel. In production, each steel wall is made in one piece, limiting the number of seams that need to be sealed. The corrugated shape of the walls is designed for optimal strength.

Once the walls, roof, and floor are completely welded together—including square piping around the seams—a wood floor is installed. With everything assembled, the workers paint the container and install protective piping to further weatherproof the shipping container.

In the end, every shipping container will undergo an extensive test to make sure that the container is watertight and will survive many harsh journeys.

Types of Containers

Even though shipping containers are uniformly designed to accommodate easy storage and transport, there are quite a few different storage container types for specialized distribution.

New 20 foot Shipping Container

Standard Dry Container

This is probably what you think of when you think about storage containers. It’s also what we here at Simple Box typically work with. The dry storage container consists of a door on one end—usually either a cargo or roll-up door—and it comes in 8ft wide by 10ft, 20ft, and 40ft long varieties. High Cubes are also available, which mean they are one foot taller at 9.5ft rather than 8.5ft.

Used 20 foot Reefer Shipping Container

Refrigerated Container

A reefer container has the capability to control interior temperature. These are used to transport food items and other goods that need to be kept chilled. Similar to refrigerated containers, insulated containers are important for climate control within the container. They help maintain a constant internal temperature regardless of the weather outside, which makes them optimal for transporting chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and other sensitive goods.

open side container

Open Side & Double Door Container

These containers have large doors opening to the side rather than the end. These are optimal for unloading large pieces of cargo.

Creative Uses

A Simple Box employee walks into Modified Studio

Life on the seas is rough, and shipping containers can’t last forever in the shipping industry. However, their uses don’t have to end when they’re no longer fit for travel. Instead of allowing used shipping containers to rot in landfills, people have developed amazing ways to use these containers.

In Los Angeles, the city has built full apartment complexes to house their homeless population, helping bring people off the streets.

Some businesses create entire locales out of shipping containers. Their stackability makes it easy to create multiple levels, and the building block shape allows people to get creative with their floor plans.

Additionally, shipping containers are becoming popular material for outdoor stages. Since they are built to travel, the stages can be easily removed and move along with a traveling performance group.

Shipping containers can also be modified and turned into mobile offices. They’re sturdier than other temporary office options, and they hold up on even the harshest environments. Plus, they offer optimal security to lock up your tools or important office supplies in while you’re away from the job site.

Modifying containers for storage or temporary buildings is more than just a sustainable option; shipping containers are built to protect its contents against Mother Nature’s worst, so you can trust your shipping container to keep even your most precious items safe.

How do shipping lines work?

When you’re planning on buying anything used, it’s a good idea to know what your item has gone through. With shipping containers, it’s pretty easy to know where they’ve been. Shipping lines work in a few easy steps:

1. The items are packed into the shipping container from the shipper (usually directly at the factory or wherever the goods are produced). The container will be locked and secured and won’t be opened until it reaches its destination (unless it’s flagged for search by customs).

2. The shipping container will be transported to the nearest port via truck.

3. Once proper customs documentation is confirmed, it will be loaded onto a ship for transport overseas.

4. Upon arrival, the shipping container is unloaded and examined by customs.

5. The shipping container is loaded onto a truck and shipped to a distribution center, usually near the port where it arrives.


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