What are Shipping container grades?

Whether the company is buying, renting, or leasing a container, a few features set each container apart from the others. The most important one of them is shipping container grades. 

There are currently 17 million shipping containers circulating the world, and understanding the differences between them is something that we can help you with. 

In this article, we’ll answer these questions.

  • What are shipping container grades?
  • How are the grades determined?
  • What do the different grades mean in relation to shipping container quality?
  • What are the different types of grades?

So, if you’re interested in knowing the answers to these questions, keep on reading. 

What are shipping container grades?

guy giving shipping container grades at a port

A shipping container grade is an indication of the container’s condition. Containers are built to last for decades, and their status can range from new ones that are just out of the factory to older ones that might suffer from aesthetic or structural issues. 

Being used in harsh conditions, exposure to the elements, and even the nature of shipments themselves can all affect the state of the container.

Containers can also be damaged when handled by cranes and other heavy machinery in storage or transit. 

Grades aren’t universal in the container industry, but they’re usually determined according to two factors; the looks and structure.

The looks or aesthetics of the container might not affect its use, but it won’t look good. A container might have minor dents, flaking paint, or discoloration but can still be functional. 

The structural features refer to the usability of the shipping container. For example, it might not be able to handle bigger shipments or carry them for extended periods of time after spending a long period on a cargo ship. 

Even if two companies have the same container grading system, an A-class container might not refer to the same quality in both companies. 

What Do the Different Grades Mean in Relation to Shipping Container Quality?

approved csc plate
Source : Youtube

If the company follows an A, B, and C container grading system to grade its containers according to their aesthetics and cleanliness, then A refers to the best quality while C refers to the worst. 

Grade-A containers are the new ones that are probably brought right out of the factory or had only one trip, while grade-C containers are of lesser quality.

The latter has been used for a longer period on a cargo ship, so they will cost less if a company is trying to lease or buy a container. 

Structural standards are also used to determine the grade of containers, and this refers to how functional they can be. For example, some containers are new and have no dents or corrosion, while others are visibly damaged and won’t hold up in international waters. 

What are the Different Types of Container Grades?

In most cases, structural standards are used to grade different trip containers and set them apart from each other. Most companies offer containers of the following grades. 

  • IICL-5 shipping containers follow the international leasing inspection and repair standards set by international container lessors, so they’re the most expensive ones in the shipping industry. A container is usually between 2 and 8 years old, and is water tight but it’s more costly than a WWT container. It’s a high quality container that’s suitable for international transport. 
  • CW or cargo-worthy grade shipping containers are the most common ones used by shipping lines. A cargo-worthy grade container is usually a B-grade container that meets all the specifications in its standard specification. 
  • Wind and Watertight or WWT containers don’t have a special CSC plate, so they might not be cargo worthy for intermodal shipping. WWT containers are older than eight years old and are further divided into A, B, and C grades depending on the way they look. 
  • AI or As-Is is a grade that refers to a container that suffers from substantial structural damage. It usually has visible holes, visible dents, or noticeable corrosion, so the company doesn’t promise that it will remain watertight or will keep your cargo in the right condition until it’s delivered to its predetermined destination. 

If aesthetics, cleanliness, and the appearance of the container are used to determine the grade of the container, the container will have one of the following grades. 

better quality wind and watertight shipping containers
Source : Youtube
  • Food grade shipping containers refer to the highest degree of quality and cleanliness. These are usually the newest and most structurally sound containers that the company can offer. 
  • A-grade shipping containers are usually clean with no signs of rust or damage, so they will prevent the entrance of insects and rodents, and will work for transporting food and other valuable goods. A company will consider buying an A-grade storage container if it wants to build a fleet. 
  • Furniture grade containers refer to generally clean and safe containers that are usually clean from the inside and won’t leave any marks on the furniture shipped. These are usually B+ containers. 
  • General-quality containers, refurbished, or grade B containers usually show some visible rust markings and are used for different types of cargo, including vehicles, tools, and machines. A company will use these cargo-worthy containers if it’s looking for extra storage. 
  • Industrial-quality shipping containers refer to B- or C-grade storage containers. These used containers show visible signs of rusting and damage that were inflicted by several handling and storage factors throughout the container’s lifespan, so they’ll only work for transporting industrial cargo like car parts that won’t rust. However, they don’t promise the best quality as this container can let moisture and rodents inside. 
  • Handyman storage container refers to the oldest and most damaged used containers. It’s only suitable if the company buying it is planning to spend time and money on repairing it before use. 


Shipping container grades refer to the condition of the container and will help you determine what you should consider for leasing or buying a new or used container from container suppliers.

A newer container isn’t always better, as it might cost beyond your budget. Other grades can work for your cargo, and you might have to do some maintenance work yourself before the container can be used. 

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