Shipping containers are designed and built to standard sizes. This standardisation makes packing, loading and transporting them around the world a far more efficient process. Similarly, the weight capacity of shipping containers is also standardised.

The shipper is the responsible party for packing and loading cargo into shipping containers. While the shipper has the freedom and flexibility to pack and load cargo accordingly, there are correct loading practices in place.

The weight of the cargo should be evenly spread over the entire area of the container’s floor. If the container weight is densely concentrated, it should be distributed with bedding. A shipper may not exceed the maximum weight capacity of a container. This is better known as the container payload.

Knowing and logging a shipping container’s weight is incredibly important and keeping records of container weights is a necessary precaution all shippers must take. Incorrect weights pose a stability and stress issue for ships. While accidents such as capsizing generally only happen in extreme circumstances, incorrect weights can lead to stacks collapsing and cargo being lost overboard. By far the most important factor to consider is the risk of personal injury or death to seafarers and shore-side workers.

There are three relevant weights concerning shipping containers: The Tare Weight, the Gross Weight and the Payload. These are painted on the outside of the container doors when it is in shipping service or before it has been repainted for another application.

Lots of shipping containers at port

  • The Tare Weight (also known as unladen weight) is the total weight of the empty container. Using this information, the weight of the internal goods can be determined by subtracting it from the container’s gross weight.
  • The Payload or Net Weight is the weight of the cargo or contents that a container can hold. The container max payload should not be exceeded.
  • The container Gross Weight is the weight of the container plus the maximum payload it can hold.

Using this information, the weight of the container goods can be determined by subtracting the Tare Weight from the container’s Gross Weight. It is, therefore, vital that payloads are neither exceeded nor the gross weights of containers misstated.

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It is for this reason that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) amended the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention to improve the safety surrounding shipping containers and their loading and handling. The amendment introduced regulation of the gross weight of containers by declaring that the stated gross mass of containers must now be verified. This verification ensures that the mass declared by the shipper is, in fact, a true reflection of the actual gross mass of the packed container. For further information on the SOLAS VGM amendment, please see the Verified Gross Mass information page.

BoxTech weight measurements

The BoxTech Global Container Database accepts the following weight measurements in kilograms and pounds:

  • Tare weight;
  • Maximum payload;
  • Maximum gross mass;
  • Stacking weight;
  • Racking weight, and more.

To view the full list, download the file template from the sign-up page.

This page is a part of our container information series. For more details and links to other pages, please see the container information page.

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