Skip to Content

How Are Shipping Containers Identified? Expert Explanation

You’ve probably heard of a shipping container, but how are shipping containers identified? Shipping containers are an essential component of global trade, facilitating the transportation of goods across the world’s oceans. While they may seem like a uniform and standardized part of the shipping process, a sophisticated system exists for identifying and tracking these containers.

Several methods are used to ensure that shipping containers are identified the right way and managed throughout their journey. In particular, this is done from unique identification numbers to advanced tracking methods. In this blog post, we will explore how shipping containers are identified. We will be sure to include the various methods and other means used in the process.

What Is a Shipping Container Identification System?

A Container Identification System is a method used to identify shipping containers uniquely. Each container is assigned a unique identification number, the Container Number or the Box Number.

This number is used to identify the container throughout its journey, from the point of origin to the final destination. The Container Identification System also includes other identifying information, such as the container size, type, and weight.

This information is used for tracking and managing the container and customs and security purposes. The system ensures that each container can be easily identified and located. In general, this makes it an very important tool for the global transportation and logistics industry.

Read More: Can You Put A Shipping Container On Agricultural Land?

ISO Identification Markings On A Container And Their Meaning

Shipping Containers Can be Identified Using Owner Code

A combination of three capital letters, the owner code, shows the owner of a container. These codes are assigned by the Bureau International des Containers et du Transport Intermodal. On the whole, this is an international agency authorized by ISO to ensure no double application of codes among owners.

Take, for instance, the container shown above that belongs to Textainer. This is the world’s largest container leasing company, having a fleet of 3.5 million units. Shipping and leasing companies often exhibit their logos on the container, accentuated with different colors to identify their brand identity.

See also  Are Container Homes Legal in Miami? Find Out the Facts!

Read More: How Do You Prevent Mold In Shipping Containers? Easy

Product Group Code

One of the ways that shipping containers are identified is by use of product group code. A single capital letter following the owner code denotes the product group code. Consequently, this will show the type of equipment the container can carry. The code could be U for a container, J for an accessory such as a power unit, or Z for a trailer or chassis. Thus, each mobile intermodal equipment has a unique code that is used to identify it.

Read More: 9 Creative Ideas For Shipping Container Home Design And Décor

Registration Number (Or Serial Number)

A registration number is a series of six digits that tells apart one container from another under the same owner code. With this, an owner code can have up to a million containers, each with a unique value.

Read More: How To Size Your Solar Battery Bank For An Excellent Performance

Identification of Shipping Containers Using Check Digit

Shipping containers are also identified by a check digit. A check digit is a single number used to prove the identification sequence’s accuracy. It is most of the times put in a box to ensure it stands out from the registration number. Without doubt, the large volume of containers passing through sea ports increases the chances of mis-inputting identification order.

As a result, the standard way of doing things entails remotely inputting the order of numbers and letters through a video camera and the operator manually entering it into the information system. Alternatively, optical character recognition software can automatically input the order of letters and numbers.

A numerical operation is carried out on the container identification sequence (owner code, product group code, and registration number), producing a single digit number compared to the check digit. If the two matches, the identification order of letters and numbers is correct, albeit with a slim chance of errors.

Read More: How Much Does A Used Shipping Container Cost? Expert Guide

Size and Type Code/ISO Code

A code with four digits immediately following the container identification sequence reveals the container’s size and type. The first two characters agree to the length and height of the container respectively. In the photo above, “45” means the container has a length of 40 feet (4), and a height of 9 feet 6 inches (5), while “G1” shows that it is used for general use.

Read More: 10 Surprising Benefits Of A Neat Container Green Roof

See also  Container Home Builders in Michigan - Discover The Best

Classification Society Label for Type Testing

The classification society label for type testing is a certification that shows that a shipping container meets the standards that are set by a particular classification society. What’s more, classification societies are independent organizations that look at closely and set the standards for coming up with designs, building, and testing various types of containers.

The label shows that the container has been taken through serious testing and meets the minimum needs for quality and safety. The label may include the following:

  • The name of the classification society.
  • The date that it was built.
  • The container’s serial number.
  • Other important information.

Payload Can be Used to Identify Shipping Containers

Shipping containers can also be identified by the maximum payload. The maximum payload is the maximum weight a container can safely carry, including its weight. All in all, the weight of the container is removed from the maximum payload to determine the weight of the cargo that can be loaded into the container.

This information is crucial for making sure the appropriate method of moving it from one place to the other, and the number of containers needed to transport a particular type of cargo. The maximum payload is usually made clear on the container’s ISO identification marks and can vary with different types of container.

Read More: How Much Space Do You Need For A Container Home?

CSC, ACEP & Other Certifications

The CSC (International Convention for Safe Containers) certification is a standardized international regulatory framework that ensures containers’ safe handling and movement from one point to another. Authorized organizations issue the certification, and the container must be checked and tested to meet the standards before it is given a clean bill of health.

The ACEP (Agreement for the Enforcement of the International Convention for Safe Containers) is an agreement that enables the countries that are involved to carry out routine checks of containers and enforce the CSC requirements.

Read More: What is Site Inspection? All You Need to Know

Benefits of Shipping Containers Identified by Number Tracking

Reduction in D&D Charges

Shipping containers that are identified by number tracking can to a great extent reduce demurrage and detention charges. To put it another way, these are fees that put in place by shipping lines when containers are not returned within a given time frame.

By making available the visibility into the location and status of containers, this technology allows shipping companies to manage their equipment better and reduce the occurrence of these charges. With reduced D&D charges, businesses can benefit from better cost savings and added profit margins.

See also  Shipping Container Homes in Connecticut: Build Your Dream Home

Read More: Environmental Impact Of Solar Energy

Identified Shipping Containers Reduces Manual Work

Manual work is takes a great deal of time, and as usually, is prone to error, which can in turn have a negative impact supply to chain operations. In addition, by making use of shipping containers that are identified by number tracking, businesses can automate many manual activities that are related with container management.

This helps to reduce the amount of work to employees and improves the accuracy of data. As a result, you end up with a more time saving and effective supply chain.

Read More: High Efficiency Solar Panels: Expert Comparison And Costs

Shipping Container Identification Improves Planning

Shipping container number tracking gives businesses greater visibility into their containers’ location and status. As a matter of fact, this data can be used to improve planning and coordination across the supply chain, resulting in greater efficiency and reduced costs.

For example, shipping companies can use this information to optimize their routes and schedules. In turn, this can reduce the shipping containers transit times and ensuring on-time delivery.

Read More: Top 15 Best Solar Powered Home Designs And Their Cost

Improves Customer Satisfaction

Customers expect their goods to be delivered on time and in good condition. With this intention, implementing container number tracking, businesses can improve their ability to meet these expectations.

This technology allows companies to provide more accurate and information that is up to date to customers about the location and status of their shipments. Under those circumstances, we get way better communication and higher levels of happy customer.

Read More: Solar Panels Components And Installation: Expert Guide

Shipping Containers That are Identified Help Save You Money

Container number tracking is a critical component of supply chain management. All things considered, it helps business people to improve their operations and reduce costs. And so by making available real-time visibility into the location and status of containers, container number tracking helps to prevent delays and reduce idle time, and in the long run, lower the cost to transport goods.   

In addition, it allows businesses to identify inefficiencies in their supply chain and make data-driven decisions to improve processes and reduce waste. By leveraging container number tracking technology, businesses can increase their operational efficiency and reduce costs, leading to significant cost savings in the long run.

Read More: Solar Lease Vs Solar Financing: Which Is Better?


Identifying and tracking shipping containers is critical to modern supply chain management. Several methods are used to ensure that shipping containers are properly managed and tracked throughout their journey. Of course, this includes unique identification numbers and other advanced tracking technologies.

By understanding how shipping containers are identified, businesses can optimize their logistics processes. At the same time, they can reduce costs while ensuring that their goods are transported safely and efficiently. Finally, as the world of global trade continues to evolve, the importance of effective container identification and tracking will only continue to grow.

Read More: 15 Best Solar Companies In The Us

Sharing is caring!