What is Intermodal Containers? Everything Explained

Intermodal Containers uses, different types of Intermodal Containers and dimensions.

The use of marine containers in the logistic supply chain has undergone a paradigm shift over the last few decades. And why? These containers can be used in a variety of shipping modes, saving time, money and effort.

Intermodal is a transportation method that uses multiple modes of transportation to move cargo. Very suitable for long-distance services, it is a cost-effective option and can save up to 30% on fuel costs. In the transportation industry, intermodal or ISO containers are the key to achieving strategic goals and regulating geographic traffic. It is also sustainable and improves supply chain operations.

What is an intermodal container?

What is an intermodal container?

You know what a container is ! The marine container and the ISO container are the same cargo container. They can be used in multiple transport modes without having to unload / reload internal items.

These containers are manufactured according to the guidelines of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Structural integrity
Quality to withstand different types of weather
Appropriate size and life
The standard size makes it easy to use across railroads, roads and the sea. ISO containers are 20 or 40 feet long and vary in width and height. The most common dimensions available on the market are:

1 TEU: 20ft x 8ft x 8ft6 “
2 TEU: 40 feet x 8 feet x 8 feet 6 inches
High Cube: 20ft x 8ft x 9ft 6inch

(The TEU, or 20-foot equivalent unit, is the standard unit of measure for container capacity. It is based on the capacity of a 20-foot long container.)

Note: Manufacturers prefer to inspect containers every 30 months to maintain quality and standardization.

Intermodal container type

There are six main types of intermodal or ISO containers.

    1. Dry cargo

It is the most common general purpose container and carries all kinds of cargo without specific specifications. Dry cargo containers are airtight and do not have a ventilation system. Approximately 90% of the containers used worldwide are dry freight containers (20 feet and 40 feet).

    2. Insulation

By insulating the container from the inside, they function under regulated temperatures and provide the warm, dry storage space needed for goods. These can be used year-round, regardless of climate.

3. Open top

As the name implies, these marine containers do not have a roof. They are designed to carry heavy materials and large machines that do not fit in a closed area.

4. Flat rack

A little different from tribes, these containers have foldable sides. You can fold these sides to create a flat rack-like model. Due to its lack of roof, it is mainly used for transporting tall / wide materials such as wood, pipes and heavy machinery.

    5. Refrigerate

These containers, also known as refrigerated containers, work with controllers that maintain an internal temperature (range -65ºC to 40ºC). These marine containers are used to transport fresh food such as medicines, fish and meat.

    6. Tank

Tankers or tank containers are made up of anticorrosion materials for transporting fluids, powders, etc. as the main cargo. According to the guidelines, this type of container should be at least 80% full to prevent a surge in liquids. However, thermal expansion is possible because it must not exceed 95%.

These are a wide range of categories based on container features and requirements. However, a combination of any of the above types is often customized to meet your shipping needs. For example, a dry freight container can also be insulated.

Why you need to use Intermodal Containers ?

Intermodal containers help control operational hassles by providing high-speed freight transportation with significant time and cost savings. Not only that. Due to their multiple advantages, these containers have certainly revolutionized the operating standards of the industry.

If you’re still not sure why intermodal containers are reliable, here are some of the benefits:

    1. Save time and effort

With sea containers, you don’t have to worry about loading and unloading cargo over and over again. You only need to load the goods into the container once and use them during the entire transportation process. It doesn’t matter if the container moves only at sea. Or when traveling from the sea to the railroad to the road. This also means saving crane time and truck turnaround time and getting the job done faster. Save time, effort, and …

    2. Save money!

As mentioned above, the intermodal container does not require any additional operation or time. They even omit empty miles, which directly leads to huge savings. Therefore, ISO containers seem to be the most cost-effective containers for the logistics business.

    3. Increased capacity

With the development of intermodal transportation, the railway industry is also included. This expands the range in which a large amount of cargo can be easily transported at one time. Intermodal containers have proven to be the best choice.

    4. Reliable and effective

Reliability and effectiveness are good business determinants. That’s what intermodal shipping and containers use. The entire shipping process is now more reliable, faster and more efficient. Because it reduces all obstacles and is faster than OTR alone (on the road).

    5. Safe and convenient

With strict ISO guidelines and standards, marine containers eliminate the risk of leaks and dangerous accidents. In addition, shipping IoT and big data implementations allow real-time tracking of your entire itinerary.

Intermodal v / s multimodal container

Given the similarities, shippers and freight carriers tend to use intermodal and multimodal transport interchangeably. Both are used to move cargo in several modes of transportation. However, the key points of the difference between the two are:

Intermodal TransportationMultimodal Transportation
Use different contracts with multiple providers. That is, each carrier issues a separate bill of lading. Like the other documentation for each interchange.Use a single contract with one carrier to transport the cargo, regardless of the number of modes of transport.
Shipping managers at each company have the flexibility to determine the best rates for all contracts.Managers are required to settle at a fixed rate throughout the journey.
Operates in one transport unit during the journey.Use different units in different modes.

Continuous growth for the future

Intermodal freight is an industry leader in sustainable benefits. Significantly reduce CO2, N2O, and other harmful emissions by reducing operating costs and time. According to the data, using the intermodal freight transportation option reduces GHG emissions by 66.66%. Data show that GHG emissions are reduced by 66.66% per ton mile when compared to regular trucking.

This, combined with several other benefits, makes intermodal containers and transportation the best investment for future manufacturers and companies. It leaves a positive footprint with the benefits of cost savings.