Entering the world of logistics and shipping, one could be bewildered by different incoterms used by the industry personnel. Intermodal container is one such term that is much in the use in the shipping industry. Different people have a different definition for intermodal containers- some say it’s a synonym used for shipping boxes while some differentiate it based on its mobility feature.

Intermodal Containers are large size shipping boxes that are designed to be used over all modes of transportation (sea, road, and rail). Primarily it is used for the storage and shipment of wide variety of cargoes. It is mostly used for international shipment where cargo has to cross several land & water bodies to reach a destination.

It exists in many types and numerous standardized sizes, but the majority of them are dry freight. The load-carrying capacity of these boxes is measured in terms of TEUs (Twenty-feet Equivalent). It refers to the amount of cargo a 20ft long container can bear. Each of these boxes is designed as per ISO standards and bears the ISO certification which proves the strength and durability of the container to be used for any mode of shipment.

What are the different types of Intermodal Containers?

Not all containers exhibit intermodal properties. Only a few exhibits. They are-

Dry Freight

Dry freight is the most commonly used container type used for the carriage of a large category of goods. It is used for many different materials that do not need special consideration. It opens at the rear and has two-leaf doors. Though it is an intermodal container, it is equally suitable for storage purposes too. It is mostly 20 to 40ft long and can be customized when it comes to height. 

Flat Rack

Flat Rack is one of the most used container types used for the carriage of heavy and wide cargoes. Unlike general shipping containers, it does not have walls or roofs which means it isn’t a closely packed box. It just has a floor and two walls on its breadth side. Those two walls are either fixed or collapsible (you can take it off). It is mostly suitable for cargoes such as heavy iron objects, wood, trunk, or goods that are not compatible in a closed shipping box. 

Insulated Containers

Insulated containers, for ages, have made possible the shipment of perishable items like foodstuff, chemicals, organs, etc. They cannot heat or cool themselves but they can maintain temperature for long and maintains the freshness of goods until it reaches destined port. They don’t have any attached refrigeration unit, instead, they have inbuilt insulated panes, roof, and doors. The interior of the insulated containers is well coated to restrict the flow of air, heat, and humidity. 

Refrigerated Containers or Reefers

Most people confuse insulated and reefers to be the same. But in reality, both of them carry a difference. Unlike insulated containers, reefers come with an inbuilt refrigeration unit that makes them capable of keeping goods fresh for a longer duration as compared to insulated boxes. These are used to ship temperature-sensitive products, perishable goods like fruits, vegetables, pharmaceuticals, organs, blood, meat, etc. The attached heating or cooling unit can be adjusted to the desired temperature prior to shipping and remain at the same temperature throughout the entire transition.

Open Top

Open top containers come with a removable tarpaulin cover on its top enabling the cargoes to be loaded inside the box from the top. Due to this, they aren’t included in the list of enclosed boxes. These boxes are mostly found suitable for the shipment of large & heavy cargoes and other equipment that protrude beyond the standard height of the container. The roof opening varies depending upon the type of construction. Some models also come with a swinging header to facilitate easier loading operations. 

Quality pose by Intermodal Containers-

Intermodal containers are one of the most used types of shipping containers. This is due to the following reasons-

Apt for all transportation modes-

Not all boxes are designed to commute over all modes of transportation. Some have limitations by which they can be traversed over limited modes of transportation- land, sea, or rail. But intermodal containers come with special feature, strength, and design that makes them commutable over every means of transportation. Whether you want to transport it via sea, truck, or trains, they match your requirement. Due to this reason, they have become immensely popular amongst shippers and forwarders.

Saves your time

How a container can save your time? It sounds quirky! But its fact with intermodal. With these boxes, you do not have to load and unload cargoes every time for the change of transportation mode. You load it once at the port of origin and takes them out at the final destination without worrying about any loading and unloading between the routes. In general cargo containers, every time the modes have to be changed, the cargoes are unloaded from the former box and then loaded on another box. This somewhere increases the risk of cargo damage and theft. By choosing intermodal boxes, you not just save on time, but also on truck turnaround time, crane time, and time of people working at the ports.

Cut Cost

Intermodal containers are the best way to cut costs. This point can be well comprehended through the aforementioned point. Since, they do not require additional loading, unloading, and handling of cargoes, there are no extra charges you are liable to pay. You are not even charged for empty miles. It is for this reason that they are preferred over general cargo containers.

Offer safer shipment

By going through this paragraph, you will feel like all the features are correlated. Intermodal containers are known to offer safer shipment, no matter what cargo type you have. Be it dry, bulk, liquid, or gaseous cargo, the availability of different types of intermodal like Open top, Dry van, Reefers, Tankers, can ship your cargo without letting you worry. Since they are known to kick out all the hurdles, they make the entire shipping procedure very efficient, reliable, and faster.

The other way that proves it as a safer option is because of the ISO guidelines and standards. All the intermodal containers adhere to strict guidelines laid down by the ISO. Thus, they vanish the associated risk such as damage, leakage, etc.

Facilitate international trade

International trades are done by crossing the boundaries where cargoes are sailed over the seas, hauled on trucks, and dragged over the railway tracks. International trade can never be completed using a single mode of transportation.

For example- to ship goods from California to Germany, you will first have to hire a trucking company that could carry your goods to the port area. At the port, the container will be unloaded and goods will be again loaded in other cargo boxes. The loaded cargo box will be then shipped via vessel to the port of Hamburg. And to deliver it to the final recipient, it has to be again loaded on a truck container. You see, how complicated the overall shipment become while it could have been easily transported using an intermodal box.

Increased capacity

Intermodal containers combine intermodal transportation. It combines in it all the available modes which have increased the scope of transporting huge amounts of goods easily at a single go. With their, advent shipping is no more arduous now.


All the above points explain well that is why intermodal are the best choice where other boxes fail to meet the expectation. If you are looking to buy intermodal containers and set yourself free from all the worries that a general cargo container is feared to give, then it’s just at your fingertip. At BOXXPORT.com, we provide you an online marketplace where you get to interact with buyers and sellers globally to buy and sell containers online.