Freight containers are heavy-duty steel-made structures expected to live a long and resilient life in the high and low tides of the sea. The question is, how long is the shipping container’s lifespan? Many say that the average lifespan of a shipping container is 25-30 years. Are you thinking of investing in cargo containers for your project? Let’s delve deeper into the actual lifespan of metal shipping containers to decide how long you can expect your steel shipping container lifespan to be:

How long is shipping containers’ lifespan?

Container traders or manufacturers denote the average lifespan of new maritime containers in trade to be only for 10-12 years. The hard life of trade takes its toll on resiliency. They suffer significant visible damage like dents, rusts, scratches, leakages, etc. Does that mean one cannot use them after only 10-12 years of manufacturing?

This might have been true back in time. Steel cargo containers were recycled or scrapped when one could not use them further. But, from the 1990s onwards, marine containers are seeing increasingly innovative use cases from storm shelters to swimming pools.

Can they last to 25-30 long years? Yes! With proper care and maintenance, they can give service longer than that.

What affects their lifespan?

Steel shipping containers are strong and resilient by nature. This characteristic is the one that prolongs their life to a certain extent. That does not mean nothing can harm them throughout their life cycle. Many factors expose the containers to the risk of damage. The factors that have a significant effect on the lifespan of cargo units include the following:

1. Climate

Climate is indeed one of the main factors that decide the durability of freight boxes. They are of weather-resistant steel alloy. The steel alloy will form a layer of oxide in reaction to the oxygen and enter into the non-porous state to resist rust formation in dry weather. In wet weather, moisture will destroy the oxide layer, and the metal will enter a state of slow corrosion on the surface. Cyclic temperature with a constant cycle of wet and dry is ideal for a long lifespan of shipping boxes. In that case, the oxide layer will keep the rust at the surface only. A contrasting factor is a unit constantly travels through different climates with cargo. If a maritime unit is continuously exposed to the wet climate, it might lose its long life span to rust and corrosion.

2. Natural Elements

Metal cargo containers spend years exposed to different natural elements like moisture, saltwater, rust, dust, etc. Saltwater especially has a detrimental effect on their health. Saltwater accelerates rust formation on shipping units. Rust is the major contributor to shortening their durability.

3. Accidents

Accidents at the time of cargo loading and unloading damage steel cargo containers with significant dents, twists, etc., depending on the severity of the incidents. Accidents sometimes shake the structural integrity of the fright unit, taking it out of service sooner than desired.

4. Intermodal transport

During transport, the shippers stack the maritime freight containers on top of each other, significantly affecting the box’s structural integrity. Sudden shocks, accidents, lousy stacking also may affect the freight unit’s health.

Wrong container choice and overloading cargo also unsettle the capacity balance and structural integrity.

Lack of care or maintenance could lead to untimely operational hazards and service shortages from steel shipping units.

How can you ensure the long life of your container project?

Freight containers are excellent construction with unique durability limits. But, they do succumb to the ‘elements,’ so to speak. In case you are looking for ways to prolong the durability; you need to check the below-mentioned factors:

Proper Maintenance

Frequent inspection and proper maintenance are the secrets to extending your freight box’s lifespan beyond expected limits. Shipping containers need extensive care to maintain their ideal longevity. But, how do you care for your cargo box?


Let’s check out a few proven methods of maintenance that can stretch your unit’s longevity beyond your expectation: 

Weatherproof Your Container
Maritime containers are steel-made structures. But, they are pretty vulnerable to the attacks of constant wet weather. Moisture is not conducive to the health of their steel structure. It is imperative to weatherproof the steel structure to prolong its life. Weatherproof paint is a great way to ensure that the box is safe from the attack of moisture. The paint will also help fend off corrosion.

Ward off Rust

Rust is one of the most potent catalysts to the deterioration of any steel structure, and freight units are no different. Several factors invite rust on a steel structure, from moisture to dents to leaks to dust. It is necessary to continuously check the condition of the box and protect it from the elements above. In case there is rust, it is good to treat them immediately.

Keep the Hinges Well Oiled

The hinge of the metal shipping container door is very prone to rust or malfunction, given the constant friction. It is prudent to keep the doors lubricated or oiled to prevent rust or malfunction. A well-working door can keep the interior from catching corrosion.

How can BOXXPORT help with your container requirements?

Now, you have a complete checklist for investing in steel cargo containers. Are you wondering where you can get your perfect solution? BOXXPORT will help you with an ideal solution. Go check out our online container marketplace for the ideal solution. You can find many container types, grades, or dimensions with maximum ease. We have your standard 20ft and 40ft shipping containers for sale to high cube containers, flat racks, and other units of different grades.

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