How To Open and Close Shipping Container Doors

When trying to figure out how to open shipping container doors, you must first understand how they are manufactured. For instance, large storage units have difficult-to-operate locking mechanisms welded in place. 

Shipping container doors also typically have 4-5 hinges. These hinges have to be in perfect alignment for the container to open safely and correctly. It is essential to learn how to open shipping container doors without employee or product damage. 


How To Open Container Doors


Throughout freight travel, shipping and storage containers can be exposed to harsh elements such as seawater and inclement weather, causing lock rods to warp and affect the container frame. 

Inspect the doors to see what condition they are in before any attempt to open them and make sure you are on level ground. Shipping containers must be on level ground to access them safely. Handles should be at a height above the waist and below the shoulders. 

There are other situations where you will have to figure out a way to open shipping container doors safely. These include:

Difficult to Open or Stuck Doors

If a storage or shipping container door ages or is frozen, it might develop rusty handles or gaskets. When container doors become weathered or damaged in this way, they could become stuck. 

Should this occur, you have a few options for opening a storage unit door with minimum danger to yourself.

  • Unlatch the doors — There is a nuance to opening the latches on container doors. It starts with opening the lock rods on the right side of the door. After rotating the handles out of the retainers, you then turn them 90 degrees, forcing the cams out. 
  • Use your legs — For this next part, use your legs and not your back. Grab the vertical bars in both hands until they are below your shoulders and pull back. 
  • Get a co-worker to help — If the door refuses to budge, try asking someone to help you pull on the handles and bars.
  • Do not use a crowbar — Just don’t. Serious injuries happen this way. Instead, try to investigate the situation to find out why the doors refuse to budge.

Opening Storage Container Doors with One and Two Latches

All storage containers have two doors, but they might have only one latch or two. In both instances, it is necessary to observe specific safety procedures to open the container doors.

  • One-latch door — Opening a shipping container with only one latch is relatively easy and requires a firm pull on the handle to unlatch.  
  • Two-latch doors — A two-latch door is a trifle more complicated as you have to grasp the two handles and pull them simultaneously.
  • Two-latch issues — Opening a two-latch door can be simple, but problems can ensue. Example: You have to lift the latches deftly, and once raised, pull on the handles simultaneously. No small feat. After the handles are raised, pull on the container bar to fully open the door.

How to Remove Shipping Container Doors


Particularly stubborn doors, i.e., frozen shut or suffering frame damage, will not open without assistance. Still, it is ill-advised to reach for a crowbar. One option is to find a way to remove the doors so you can access the goods inside.

You will first need to cut off the hinges and rods. Doing so might require using a grinder with a cutting wheel to get the steel rods off so the door will fall off. You can also use an acetylene torch to do this, but it is far more dangerous and clunky. The torch would heat the metal so it expands and eventually breaks.

How to Close Shipping Container Doors

Closing shipping container doors is just as laborious as opening them. To figure out how to close shipping container doors, you need to follow a few simple steps.

Container Door Lock Parts


To familiarize yourself with the locking mechanism of a storage unit, you need to become acquainted with the door’s lock parts.

These often include but are not limited to:

  • Operation Bar.
  • Hinges.
  • Gaskets.
  • Manual Twist lock.
  • Semi-automatic Twist lock.
  • Container hooks.
  • Latches and handles.

The container could also have a padlock or chains for extra security.

How Do You Secure a Container Door?

Speaking of security, learning how to close shipping container doors properly often assists in keeping your goods protected.

  • You want to close the left-hand door first.
  • Simultaneously push both of the container door handles until they are parallel to each other. Firmly press them into the container.
  • Lock the vertical rods into their braces. Locate the braces at the top and bottom of the container doors.
  • Press the handles firmly at the same time. Make sure they are parallel before locking them into place.
  • Take each of the latches and rotate them down.

Once the doors are closed, you might want to add extra safeguards to protect your goods and valuables. 

What Kind of Lock Do You Use on a Container Door?

For added protection, many people use store-bought locks and devices. These often include:

  • Crossbar locks
  • Inner bolts
  • Padlocks
  • Lockboxes
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Do a bit of research and online comparison shopping before settling on the type of devices you require to secure your storage unit.

Helpful Tools

After learning how to open a storage unit door, you might need tools to be successful. Below is a short list of some items you need to get the job done.

Container Door Latch Handle Extender

You likely need a door latch handle extender for your shipping container or storage unit when trying to gain extra leverage to open the door. The extender also minimizes the risk of operator injury when used correctly.

Shipping Container Door Opening Tool

The best shipping container door opening tool, bar none, is a leverage bar. Also called extenders, they can be applied to open rusted or frozen shipping container doors.  

Shipping Container Door Stay

A container door stay can be advantageous when opening or maneuvering through a shipping container or storage unit. The stay can keep the storage door open even if it is stormy, windy, or rainy. The stays redeem the sound of squeaky hinges and keep operators safe from potential harm.  



Opening and closing a shipping container or storage unit can be a reasonably safe process if you know what you are doing. By educating yourself about the safeguards and strategies on how to open shipping container doors, you can do so with little danger of self-harm. Be well and stay safe.

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