6 Types of Shipping Container Conditions Defined

Have you ever wondered why shipping container conditions matter and how they are categorized? When it comes to transporting goods worldwide, maintaining proper shipping container conditions becomes essential.

The term “shipping container conditions” refers to the state and quality of containers used to transport various products. It encompasses factors such as cleanliness, structural integrity, temperature control, and compliance with industry regulations.

Ensuring optimum shipping container conditions plays a crucial role in the safety and security of goods during transit. The condition of a used container also matters if you plan on purchasing a container for residential or commercial needs such as building an office, home, gym, or coffee shop.

Plus, the condition of a shipping container can significantly impact its use and lifespan. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the fascinating world of shipping container conditions, how they are classified, the contributing factors to these conditions, and how different container grades can be beneficial for cargo transportation. Let’s dive in!

Different Types of Shipping Container Conditions

Before we delve into the specifics of shipping container conditions, let’s first understand the broad categories these containers fall into.

The different conditions we’ll be discussing in this article include new or one-trip containers, Institute of International Container Lessors (IICL) containers, cargo worthy containers, wind and watertight containers, as-is containers, and food-grade shipping containers.

New or One-Trip Containers

  • As close to new as you can get in the container market
  • Made just one trip from manufacturer to a warehouse
  • Minimum wear and tear, typically no dents or scratches
  • All features are in working order, doors, locks, and seals are intact
  • Comes with a valid CSC (Container Safety Convention) plate
  • Perfectly sealed with zero daylight visibility from inside the container when closed
  • Ready for immediate use in cargo transport, storage, or for building structures
new container

When we talk about “New or One-Trip Containers”, we’re referring to shipping containers that are as close to new as it gets.

These containers have only made one trip aboard a container ship and are, therefore, of high quality.

They come equipped with the latest features and are perfectly suited for a variety of uses, such as cargo transport and the creation of prefab structures like homes and offices.

Institute of International Container Lessors (IICL) Containers

  • High-quality used containers with minimal wear and tear
  • Passed IICL inspection criteria, ensuring long-term dependability
  • Still structurally sound with operational doors and seals
  • May have slight dents and surface rust, but nothing compromising the container’s integrity
  • Suitable for cargo transport and storage over a long period

Next, we have the IICL containers. The IICL, or the International Institute of Container Lessors, has created a standard of inspection that ensures an ISO storage container is in adequate condition for long-term leasing for cargo transportation.

Although these containers may have experienced some wear and tear, they remain structurally sound for overseas shipping and long-term use, making them a dependable choice.

Cargo Worthy Containers

  • Suitable for international shipping
  • Will passed inspection for cargo worthiness, but usually don’t come with a valid CSC plate
  • May show signs of wear and tear, including dents, surface rust, and faded paint
  • Despite cosmetic issues, maintains high structural integrity and is watertight
  • Operational doors and seals, ensuring safe and secure cargo transport
  • Ideal for static storage or conversion into modular structures
40ft hc cargo worthy shipping container for sale

Cargo worthy shipping containers (also known as CW or CWO containers), although not brand new, are still in good enough condition to transport cargo.

As the name implies, cargo-worthy means the container has been deemed fit to transport cargo by sea or land.

They must meet certain standards to be certified as Cargo Worthy. They typically have a valid CSC (Container Safety Convention) plate and have been inspected to ensure they are structurally sound, watertight, and have operational doors.

These used shipping containers may have signs of wear and tear, such as dings, dents, and rust, but they maintain a high structural integrity.

Their high structural integrity is paramount for protecting the cargo during the rough conditions of sea transport. 

If you’re looking for a portable storage solution or want a quality refurbished container without the high costs of a new container, Cargo worthy is the way to go.

These are the most popular option for container modifications such as container offices, restaurants, homes, and more. 

Wind and Watertight Containers (WWT)

  • No longer qualified for overseas shipping but still in fair condition
  • May show significant signs of wear and tear, including rust, dents, and faded paint
  • Despite aging signs, they remain wind and watertight, providing a secure environment for storage
  • Operational doors and seals, although they might need some maintenance
wind and water tight refurbished container

Wind & Watertight or WWT containers are those that are no longer suitable for international shipping but are still in good condition for storage or modular building conversion.

Despite having visible rust, dings, and dents due to age, these containers are typically inspected and repaired by sellers to ensure they remain wind and watertight, making them a cost-effective option for various uses.

As-Is Containers

  • Only condition you can get for under $1,000
  • Typically damaged or in a poor state
  • Not suitable for shipping or storage purposes
  • May have significant rust, dents, or even holes
  • Doors, locks, and seals may be non-functional
  • Might require extensive repair and maintenance work
  • Mostly purchased for parts or specific projects that don’t require structural integrity

In the shipping industry, as-is shipping containers are considered the most damaged and are unsuitable for shipping or storage purposes.

They are often characterized by significant damage and may require extensive maintenance and repair work.

These are the only type of containers you’ll be able to buy for under $1,000. While they can be affordable, these containers come with a risk that potential buyers should be aware of.

Food Grade Shipping Containers

  • Made explicitly for transporting food and other sensitive products
  • Highest hygiene standards in the shipping industry
  • Meets all FDA regulations for food transport
  • Clean, watertight, and free from strong smells, mold, or contamination
  • Typically made of stainless steel or other non-corrosive materials to ensure product purity
  • No toxic materials have been transported in the container in the past
  • Comes with a valid CSC (Container Safety Convention) plate
  • Containers and their interiors (including floors) are easy to clean and sterilize
  • Offers reliable temperature control, if refrigerated
  • Doors, seals, and locking mechanisms are intact and functional

Finally, food grade shipping containers are designed to meet FDA regulations and maintain product purity.

These containers are clean, watertight, and free from strong smells, mold, or contamination. They are ideal for transporting food products and other sensitive goods.

Factors Contributing to Container Grades

Now that we understand the different types of shipping container conditions, let’s delve into the factors that contribute to these categories and their respective shipping container grades.

Surface Rust and Damage

Surface rust and damage can significantly affect the condition of a shipping container. Even containers made from corrosion-resistant materials are susceptible to rusting, especially in salty air environments.

Surface rust and damage can compromise structural integrity and increase vulnerability to water leaks, making prompt treatment through painting, sealing, and rustproofing crucial.

Implementing effective rust prevention measures, such as regular inspections, proper coating applications, and moisture control, is crucial for preserving the container’s structural integrity and preventing damage to the cargo.

Paint Quality & Freshness

The quality and freshness of paint on a shipping container can greatly affect its longevity. Good quality paint can protect the container from moisture and corrosion.

In assessing the paint condition, it’s important to check for rust spots and plan for maintenance if necessary.

Priming and painting the container with oil-based paint can help prolong its lifespan.

Ventilation and Airflow Management

shipping container vents

Adequate ventilation and airflow management are crucial for maintaining optimal shipping container conditions.

Without proper airflow, containers can experience a range of issues that can impact the cargo and overall container integrity.

Importance of proper airflow for preventing issues inside containers

Proper airflow plays a vital role in preventing a host of issues that can arise inside shipping containers. One of the primary benefits of good ventilation is the prevention of moisture buildup.

With adequate airflow, condensation and humidity levels can be controlled, reducing the risk of damage to the cargo.

Furthermore, proper airflow helps mitigate the build-up of harmful gases and odors.

Stale air can lead to the growth of mold and mildew, which not only compromises the cargo but also poses health risks to individuals handling the containers.

Certification and Compliance Standards for Shipping Containers

approved csc plate

Shipping containers must meet a range of quality, safety, and environmental regulations to ensure the secure transportation of goods.

Certification processes and compliance checks play a crucial role in verifying that these containers meet the necessary standards.

These processes typically involve comprehensive inspections and tests conducted by authorized certification bodies.

Compliance checks are then performed periodically to ensure continued adherence to the regulations.

ISO Storage Container Requirements

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) provides essential guidelines for shipping container conditions.

These specifications make these containers suitable for transporting various types of cargo and ensure they meet international standards.

The ISO also plays a crucial role in setting standardized measurements for technology and engineering in the shipping industry.

Standardization in the shipping industry ensures that containers are manufactured to fit together like interlocking blocks. 

ISO standards cover various aspects of container design, construction, and performance, including dimensions, strength, and load-bearing capabilities.

Adhering to these standards enhances the compatibility, durability, and safety of shipping containers.

Condition Category Ratings from International Institute of Container Lessors (IICL)

The IICL provides grading standards for shipping container conditions.

These standards assess container grades based on structural conditions, internal paintwork, flooring, and exterior panels, ensuring an unbiased grading process.


What is a Container Inspection List?

A container inspection list is a comprehensive checklist used to assess the condition of shipping containers. It includes items such as structural integrity, cleanliness, proper sealing, and compliance with regulations.

By using a container inspection list, shipping companies can ensure that their containers meet the necessary requirements before each use.

What is a One-Trip Container?

A one-trip container is a shipping container that has only been used once for shipping cargo. It’s as close to new as a container can get, offering high quality and latest features for various uses.

What are IICL Containers?

IICL containers meet the inspection standard set by the International Institute of Container Lessors (IICL).

These containers are in adequate condition for long-term leasing for cargo transportation and offer a dependable and high-quality solution.

What Does “As-Is” Mean in Shipping Container Conditions?

“As-Is” in shipping container conditions refers to containers that are significantly damaged and unsuitable for shipping or storage purposes. They require extensive maintenance and repair work and are often the most affordable option.

How Does Standardization Impact Shipping Container Conditions?

Standardization ensures that shipping containers are manufactured to fit together like interlocking blocks, which is vital for efficient stacking and transporting.

It impacts the container’s size, design, and the materials used, all contributing to its condition.


Shipping container conditions vary significantly, from new or one-trip containers to as-is containers.

Understanding these conditions, the contributing factors, and the benefits of different grades is crucial for cargo transportation.

No matter what you’re shipping, there’s a container out there with the right conditions to fit your needs.

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