Standard shipping containers are 8ft wide (2.44m) x 8 ft' 6 in. (2.6m.) high, but come in five standard lengths, 20 ft (6.1 m), 40 ft (12.2 m), 45 ft (13.7 m), 48 ft (14.6 m), and 53 ft (16.2 m). Of these the 20 ft. and 40 ft. box type containers with rear loading doors are the most common. These are suitable for a wide variety of general goods, particularly boxes, cartons, cases, sacks, bales, drums etc. and pallets.
Alternative open top containers are available for bulky of heavy items that need to be loaded into the container from the top by crane. There are also a wide range of specialist designs suited for specific applications, but still conforming to the basic container dimensions. This includes designs to handle liquid tanks, temperature controlled products, gas bottles etc., as well as half height and collapsible designs.
The maximum gross mass for a 20 ft dry cargo container is 24,000 kgs., and a 40 ft, (inc. the 2.87 m. (9 ft 5in.) high cube container), is 30,480 kgs.. Depending upon their construction, standard containers have a tare mass of 1800 - 2400 kg for a 20ft container and 2800 - 4000 kg for a 40 ft.container. The maximum payload mass is there reduced to approx. 21,600 kg for a 20 ft, and for 26,500 kg for a 40ft container.
Standard containers are normally loaded through the rear doors using fork lift trucks. Where containers are used on a regular basis, then the truck with the container reverses into a loading dock so that fork lifts can drive into the container on a level surface. Alternatively where an elevated loading dock is not available, it may be necessary to remove the container from the vehicle by crane so that it can be placed at floor level before being filled or emptied, and then lifted back onto the truck again.
Where neither loading docks or heavy duty cranes are available, it is normal to use mobile Yard Ramps, also often called Container Ramps. These are special portable ramps approx. 40 ft (12m.) long which are placed at the back of a container truck so that they provide an inclined track suitable for fork lifts to enter the container.
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