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Containerised transportation, often known as containerisation, is used to refer to shipping goods in standardised containers. This made movement of goods by trains and ocean cost-effective saving tons of space.


Containerisation became globally popular in the 1950s. It simplified international trade giving businesses a safe and cost-effective option to transport their goods across borders. Ports across the globe have built infrastructure to accommodate ships coming in with containers and storage of the containers until they are dispatched to their respective locations.

What is containerised transportation?

Using standardised containers to ship goods via sea, rail and road is called containerised transportation. These containers are usually 6 m to 12 m in length. They are built specifically for transporting cargo and are therefore designed to be compatible with multiple transport modes.

You might already know ports around the world have customised shipyards with container terminals that are built to specifically handle ships bringing goods in containers. These shipyards have some special mechanisms to anchor container ships and remove the containers from the ship. These mechanisms were developed after concluding that containerised shipping is profitable for businesses and a safer transport option for sea and rail.

You might also know that automobiles are transported from manufacturer’s factory to showrooms across the country using large container trucks. These trucks have large container trucks that are equipped to carry cars, bikes and other automobiles safely to their destinations. This is one of the most common containerised transportation examples.

Do note that containerisation is generally used to refer to shipping via ocean. As you already know ocean freight is the most common user of containers.

Also read: What is FCR in shipping? Full form, features, functions

Steps involved

Containerisation encompasses several steps from packing the goods into a container and then unloading the goods at the destination. Have a look at the process of containerised transportation in tersm of ocean shipping:

Step 1: Goods are packed and loaded onto the standardised containers that are 6m to 12m in length

Step 2: Containers are transported to port. These containers pass through Customs authority for checking and verification.

Step 3: Containers are organised and stacked at the port awaiting loading onto a container ship

Step 4: Containers are loaded on the ship using a crane

Step 5: Container ships transport the containers to the destination port

Step 6: Containers are unloaded from the ship using cranes

Step 7: Containers are transported from the port to the destination using trucks or trains.


Step 8: Containers are unloaded at the destination

Step 9: Containers are returned to Container Freight Stations (CFS)

Benefits of containerised transportation

Containerisation revolutionised the shipping industry, proving to be cost effective and a safe mode of transportation for all goods. Have a look at the key benefits of containerisation:

  • Carrying via containers is compatible with different modes of transportation.
  • It improves the efficiency of cargo handling and transportation. The specialised mechanisms for unloading and loading containers reduce material handling and reduces transportation costs.
  • Minimises delays and increases the transit time for faster product delivery.
  • Containers can transport a wide variety of goods from finished products to raw materials.
  • Containers are sealed and secured before being loaded on a ship. This minimises the risk of product damage from external factors like weather conditions.
  • Less cargo handling owing to container terminal mechanisms leads to cost savings.
  • Containers are designed for easy mechanised loading and unloading using cranes. This reduces labor costs and speeds up the overall transit process.
  • Bulk shipping is more cost-effective using containerisation compared to traditional methods of transportation.

Types of containers

While learning about containerisation it is also important to know the different types of containers used to transport goods:

  • Dry storage container: These are the most commonly used containers designed to transport dry goods. They are normally 3m, 6m, or 12 m in length.
  • Open top container: This is a dry storage container without a ceiling allowing for easy loading of cargo. The ceiling is usually covered with a sheet of plastic and secured with ropes. This provides protection against rain.
  • Open side storage container: This container has one long side that is open. This allows for wider loading of materials making them ideal for shipping products like vegetables.
  • Flat rack container: A flat rack container features two open sides with no roof. These containers are for easier loading of heavy products which can be set the rack from above or from the side. Most flat rack containers are 3- 6m long and made from steel for strength and durability.
  • Refrigerated containers: These are used for the transportation of temperature-sensitive cargo. Refrigerated containers can store products with temperature requirements ranging from -65 °C up to 40 °C.
  • ISO tanks: Tanks are storage containers designed to hold liquids and chemicals. They are usually made of anti-corrosive materials to be compatible with the chemicals they must carry.

Advantages and disadvantages

Have a look at the advantages and disadvantages of containerisation:

Advantages Disadvantages
Containers are standardised around the globe and therefore all containers can be handled by container terminals with ease Containers are large crates which need significant space for storage. It also takes up space in the loading and unloading area.
Containers can be used to carry a wide variety of goods such as agricultural produce, manufactured goods, oil and chemical products and refrigerated cargo. Container handling infrastructure is capital intensive. It is usually owned by governments of large shipping corporations.
Contributes to optimised space utilisation on ships in turn enhancing overall cost savings Container arrangement on ships requires frequent restacking which incurs additional costs and time for terminal operators.
Container ships are faster than regular cargo ships During economic downturn or high seasonal demand for certain products the shipping rates can fluctuate usually causing a General Rate Increase

Containerisation is the bedrock of modern international trade. It is a reliable, efficient, and cost-effective means of transporting goods across borders.

Priyanka Babu

Priyanka is a seasoned content marketing professional with 6 years of experience crafting various forms of business and technology sector content. Her insightful writing tackles critical issues faced by small-scale manufacturing businesses. Swati’s clear and concise communication empowers businesses to make informed decisions and thrive in today’s dynamic business environment.