Shipping containers are extremely widely used and for a great variety of purposes. Read about shipping container quality and the things to look out for when buying or hiring one.
Traditionally used for consolidating and moving cargo by sea or land, shipping containers have in recent years found other uses other their original intended purpose. Thanks to their robust build, shipping containers almost always outlive their use for shipping making them ideal building blocks for people looking to repurpose them to houses, offices, shops and other structures.
There’re several reasons why shipping containers have become a viable (and often preferred) alternative to traditional construction materials. These are:
- Robust build and durability. Shipping containers are built to withstand rough handling and adverse weather conditions during transit. This makes them really tough, meaning structures made out of them inherit this trait.
- Being the cornerstone of global shipping, the sea container is widely available in virtually any corner of the world.
- Used shipping containers are very affordable which makes them ideal for those looking to keep construction costs low.
- The uses for shipping containers are numerous. You can convert them to a wide range of products including ablution units, bridges, sheds, offices, pop-up shops and restaurants, storage units and so much more.
All shipping containers are not created equal
With container repurposing increasingly gaining mainstream acceptance, many people are finding themselves in the market for these versatile steel boxes for their construction projects.
But without the right information, it’s easy for consumers to get shortchanged while purchasing cargo containers. This is especially a problem for consumers looking to purchase used shipping containers as the process is often more complicated than you would assume.
With used shipping containers, you’ll need to be particularly keen to ensure that the container you choose is suitable for your specific requirements.
What are the things to look out for when purchasing a used shipping container?
Before you commit yourself to buying a shipping container for your business or personal use, it’s critical that you inspect it to ascertain its quality. Here is how you can differentiate between a high-quality and low-quality used shipping container.
- Number of trips
The number of trips a cargo container has made before being retired is a key determinant of its quality. Shipping containers suffer more wear and tear when frequently loaded and unloaded to and from vessels which degrades their quality. Keep in mind that the number of trips a cargo container has made will determine its resale value with lesser used shipping containers costing more.
- Previous use
What a shipping container was previously used to transport is an important consideration when evaluating the quality of a particular unit. Was the container used to transport radioactive materials, toxic chemicals, biohazards or some type of waste?
If a cargo container has been used to ship some type of dangerous goods, you can bet that some residue of the cargo has contaminated the interior of the container. This residue can linger for a very long time making the container a potential health risk to anyone who handles it onwards.
So, unless you plan on using the sea container for the exact same purpose (dangerous goods storage and transportation), it would be wise to avoid this type of containers even when the deal appears to be a steal.
Since cargo containers are made of steel, they are susceptible to rust as they age. How rusty is the shipping container you are prospecting and how deep does the rust go? One of the factors that make shipping containers attractive for construction is their strength and durability. Rust decreases the lifespan of a shipping container and greatly compromises its structural strength.
While a bit of rust cannot be avoided, check to ensure that the rust doesn’t go deep into the material as this will only get worse with time. Make sure to carry out some maintenance work on your “new” used shipping container before deploying it to arrest any developing rust and increase the lifespan of your investment.
It’s a brilliant idea to have your shipping container primed and coated with a high-quality oil-based paint that will keep moisture from getting through to the corrugated steel where it will do a lot of harm.
A few minor dents here and there are unavoidable especially in the case of used cargo containers. It’s however crucial that you ensure the container is not warped especially if you plan to have them stacked or placed side by side. Major dents not only ruin the aesthetics of a container but also negatively affect the structural integrity of the unit.
You can check whether a container is warped with a simple string test. Just run a tight string along the vertical and diagonal edges of the container and check how far away the string is from making contact with the container at the middle. If the string is quite a distance from the container’s centre, then the unit is warped and hence of lower quality.
Whether a container is weatherproof or not is a major determinant of the container’s quality. For this, you will want to check whether the gaskets on the cargo container’s doors are intact and in good condition. You will also need to check whether the doors (including the hinges and locking mechanism) work as they should.
Checking the cargo container from the inside with the doors closed will help you identify holes in the unit which could let in moisture and cost you to repair.
- steel quality
All shipping containers are not constructed using the same kind of steel. Ideally, you’d want a cargo container that is made from “Cor-Ten steel”. This is a specialized type of steel that is more resistant to adverse weather conditions and rust. While they are generally more expensive, Cor-Ten Steel containers are exceptionally high quality and durable.
What terms describe a shipping container’s quality?
Several terms are used within the shipping industry to describe the condition of a shipping container. Understanding these terms will ensure that you select the correct container for your use and needs. These terms are:
- “One-trip”. These are the newest of used shipping containers. As the name suggests, these containers have only been used for a single trip and generally have very little wear on them. As you would expect from a quality product, these containers are relatively more expensive than their more used counterparts.
- “Dangerous goods”. These are containers that have previously been used to transport toxic and dangerous goods and should generally be avoided unless you plan on using them for a similar purpose.
- “As is”. These have some significant wear on them but could still be an excellent fit depending on your intended use. ‘As is’ containers are quite worn and therefore not recommendable for any load-bearing applications such as house construction. They are, however, the most affordable.
By keeping these things in mind while making your container purchase, you will be able to acquire a shipping container that suits your needs and avoid disappointments.