Shipping Container Sizes

An intermodal container is a large standardised shipping container, designed and built for intermodal freight transport. These containers can be used across different modes of transport without requiring unloading and reloading of cargo.

Typical International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) shipping containers are manufactured with identical size specification in terms of exterior height, exterior width, and exterior length. The standardisation of containers and the adoption of the ISO specification is to ensure that all equipment handlers, chassis, rail cars, and slot spaces on vessels will accommodate all containers.

Container size must be regulated to avoid potentially hazardous situations when stacking and handling. To help avoid such issues, all shipping containers must conform to international standards. ISO containers typically measure 20ft or 40ft in length and 8ft6 in height. Extra tall shipping containers, known as high-cube containers, measure 40ft or 45ft in length and 9ft6 in height. While the height may vary slightly, the width of each container size type should always measure 8ft.

ISO 668 & 1496-1

There are two main International Standards which are set to regulate container size, weights and dimensions.

  • ISO 668:2013 establishes a classification of series 1 freight containers based on external dimensions. It specifies the associated ratings and where appropriate, the minimum internal and door opening dimensions for containers intended for intercontinental traffic. More info on ISO 68:2013.
  • ISO 1496-1:2013 outlines the basic specifications and testing requirements for ISO series 1 freight containers of the totally enclosed general purpose types. It also covers certain specific purpose types, such as closed, vented, ventilated or open top containers. It covers containers which are suitable for international exchange and for conveyance by road, rail and sea, including interchange between these forms of transport. More info on ISO 1496-1:2013.

Both of these legal standards must be fully understood and followed by container manufacturers and shippers in order to comply with safety standards.



The BoxTech Global Container Database accepts the following size measurements:

  • Cubic capacity in cubic feet;
  • External width/length/height in mm;
  • Internal width/length/height in mm;
  • Door opening width/height in mm, 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.