One out of every three containers shipped worldwide is empty. However, obtaining containers is not always easy.

The continuous congestion at the busiest ports and the high demand in certain regions of the world are just some reasons why it is so difficult to find containers in your location that fit your budget.

This problem worsens if you rely on intermediaries and third parties to obtain them, and we will try to explain it further in this brief guide on empty containers.

What is an empty container?

An empty container is, as its name suggests, a container that does not contain any goods.

This can be mainly due to three reasons:

  • The cargo has been delivered.
  • The container is empty and waiting to be returned to the owner.
  • The container has intentionally been emptied to be transported without cargo and loaded at another location.

What are the empty containers for?

In an ideal world, every container leaving a port would be full. Unfortunately, this is not always possible.

The reality is that scenarios occur daily where a carrier has an excess of empty containers at one port (A) and a shortage of containers at another port (B).

When this happens, it is common to proceed with what is known as the repositioning of empty containers, which means moving the empty units from port A to port B.

This maneuver incurs obvious costs for the carrier since they have to bear all the expenses associated with the transportation, as they are unable to find someone to fill the container.

This situation is more common than it seems, as it is estimated that, on average, containers are empty for nearly 60% of their lifespan, meaning that most of the time they are not generating any income.

Types of empty containers

In the transportation industry, different types of cargo containers are used, which can eventually be transported empty from one port (A) to another port (B).

How much does an empty container cost?

The cost of an empty container can vary significantly depending on factors such as the type of container, its size, the quality of the container, or the location of the supplier.

Generally, larger containers with higher payload capacity, which offer the ability to transport delicate or potentially dangerous loads efficiently and safely, tend to be more expensive.

It is worth noting that the price of empty containers, like full containers, can vary based on supply and demand.

How much does an empty container weigh?

The weight of an empty sea container also varies depending on the type and size.

The structure of a standard 20-foot (6-meter) container can weigh between 2,000 and 2,500 kilograms, while a standard 40-foot (12-meter) container can weigh between 3,500 and 4,000 kilograms

It is important to remember that the net weight of a dry cargo container may vary from one trip to another. If the container is not completely dismantled and spotless, it will inevitably accumulate residues from previously transported goods.

What is empty container repositioning and what causes it?

As mentioned earlier, the repositioning of shipping containers refers to the movement of empty containers from one port to another by their owner.

Let’s take a look at the most common causes of repositioning empty containers

Trade imbalances

Trade imbalances are the main cause of repositioning empty containers.

When exporters from one country send more goods to another country than they receive, there is an excess of empty containers in the importing country. As a result, carriers have to relocate the empty containers to other places, increasing costs and reducing efficiency.

Storage costs

The cost of storing empty containers is another factor contributing to the repositioning of empty containers.

Ports and warehouses charge for the storage of empty containers, but not all ports and warehouses have the same rates. Therefore, carriers move their empty containers to other ports or warehouses with lower storage costs.

Time pressure

In some situations, time pressure can force carriers to relocate empty containers.

For example, if a loaded container cannot be loaded on time due to production or transportation delays, the empty container that was used to transport the goods must be relocated elsewhere to meet delivery deadlines.

Outdated logistics planning

Outdated logistics planning is also a cause of repositioning empty containers.

If carriers do not properly plan the use of empty containers and do not consider factors such as trade imbalances, storage costs, and time pressure, empty containers can accumulate in places where they are not needed, necessitating their relocation.

Lack of cooperation between carriers

The lack of cooperation among carriers can also be a cause of repositioning empty containers.

If carriers do not coordinate and share information about the location and availability of empty containers in real-time, resources can be wasted by unnecessarily relocating empty containers.

Buy empty container: what you need to consider

If you are considering buying an empty container, there are certain aspects you should consider before choosing a empty shipping container for sale.

Here are some of the most important ones:

  • Size: Containers are manufactured in different sizes, typically ranging from 10 feet to 40 feet. Choosing the right size according to your needs will help you save costs.
  • Condition: Ensure that the container is in good condition before purchasing it. Inspect the container for significant damages such as dents, cracks, or corrosion. If you are not familiar with this process, it is advisable to seek assistance from specialists.
  • Location: If the container you want to buy is not in the same location as you, you will need to consider the transportation cost involved in bringing it to your site.
  • Price: As we have seen throughout this guide, the cost of an empty container varies depending on its size, condition, and location. Compare prices from different suppliers offering empty containers for sale before making a decision.

For more information about how to buy empty shipping containers, do not hesitate to contact our customer service department. At BOXXPORT, we are eager to assist you.