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Can I Ship My Own Container?

Published by Chris Townsend

Can I Ship My Own Container?

If you need to ship something overseas, you essentially have two options: use the container provided by the shipping line, or purchase your own. So, while you can ship your own container, there are some conditions that must be met. For starters, your container must be cargo worthy. A used container is considered to be in ‘cargo worthy’ condition if it is structurally sound enough to travel to the destination location without any problems.

When planning to ship your own container, it’s important that your container is cargo worthy and that it has been surveyed. With a survey, your container is inspected by a third party to certify that it is, in fact, cargo worthy. These surveys are mandatory if you ever want to transport your own container via truck, rail, or ship.

What is a Cargo Worthy Container?

Just like anything else, shipping containers do not last forever and their conditions will change over their lifecycle. So, how do you determine how long a shipping container can be used to ship goods? While there is no specific grading system, shipping companies use the aesthetics and structure of a container for grading purposes. For instance, a container may look rusted, dented, and overall unsightly, but be perfectly sound structurally for shipping.

As long as a container is classified as cargo worthy, it can be shipped. Cargo worthy simply means that the state of the shipping container has been classified as appropriate for cargo transport under CSC standards. To be cargo worthy, the container must also meet all the principles established in its original specification. Cargo worthy also generally implies that the container has a binding CSC, or safety approval plate that all containers utilized for international shipping must possess.

Here are some other general conditions that a shipping container will have in order to be considered cargo worthy:

  • Must be at least wind and water tight (WWT) or the structural condition is IICL 5 with a valid CSC plate.
  • Interior is no less than 50% free of marks. May have some minor scratching, scuffing, and rust.

A cargo worthy container may also have a stained or marked floor, with minor delamination. Whereas, the exterior might have some more obvious dents and corrosion, but can still be deemed cargo worthy.

What is CSC Plate?

Many people choose to purchase their own used containers for shipping or export purposes. Instead of using the container that the shipping line offers, you have the option to ship your own container – known as a “shipper owned container” (SOC).

However, your container must have a valid CSC Certificate. If you purchased the container new, it will already have a valid CSC, as all new containers do. But, if you bought a “cargo worthy” container used, the shipping line requires you to have a CSC survey performed in order to ship your container.

“CSC” refers to the international “Convention for Safe Containers,” which was developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 1972. The convention enforces international safety regulations and also requires that all containers be outfitted with a “CSC plate”. This plate will include the following information:

  • Manufacture date
  • Identification number
  • Maximum gross weight
  • Allowable stacking weight

Depending on where you purchase your container from, it may come with a valid CSC plate. Though, if it does not, you will not have a certified third-party CSC inspector inspect your shipper owned container and approve it for international shipment.

Where to Buy Your Own Shipping Container

If you are looking to purchase your own shipping container and you're based in the United States, there are a number of retailers both online and in person where you can buy shipping containers. However, one of the most reliable options is BoxHub, which lets you search for nationwide container availability, get live pricing, and even complete the purchase all online.

They also have a money-back guarantee if you end up being unsatisfied with your purchase. The team at BoxHub works with container companies and major shipping lines, to cut out the middleman and sell directly to buyers. Their website is completely transparent about pricing and they even offer lower rates than many other alternatives.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for through BoxHub, you should be able to find a local dealer in your area or some higher-up companies by simply searching online. Try typing in terms like “shipping container dealer” and “buy shipper container” plus the city you live in into your Google search bar. Craigslist is also another good place to search for local dealers, businesses, and even regular people who have containers and no longer have a use for them.

How Much Do Shipping Containers Cost?

The cost of a shipping container varies based on a number of factors, including geographical location, the container’s condition, the size of the container, modifications, and the cost of delivery. With these factors in mind, a used shipping container will usually fall in the range of $1,500 to $5,000. Whereas, a new shipping container will generally run you between $3,000 and $5,000, or more.

Since shipping containers are made of corrugated steel (COR-TEN), the pricing can shift based on the cost of steel prices. As the cost of steel changes, the availability of containers fluctuates, which can raise or lower the price of shipping containers.

2022 UPDATE: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current supply chain issues, demand is high for shipping containers. This has resulted in increased prices for shipping containers, both used and new, across the globe. Prices are high for new containers, and used containers are even more difficult to find than normal.

Shipping Container Price Factors

Let’s take a deeper look at the different factors that influence the price of shipping containers, to better understand how much purchase like this may set you back.

  • Geographical location: The availability of containers in a specific location can have a major effect on pricing. Like any other product on the market, container prices are heavily influenced by supply and demand. It essentially comes down to the economy and price of steel in a particular location.
  • Container Condition: Overall, a new or one-time-use container is naturally more expensive than a used one. A new, 20-foot container will cost you around $5,000 on average, while a used one will cost you anywhere from $3,500 to $5,000. The age and state of the container will also impact pricing. The older the container and the more it has been used and repaired over the years, the cheaper it will be.
  • Container Size: This is a no brainer. The bigger the shipping container, the more expensive it will be. A 40-foot container typically costs 20 and 30 percent more than the standard 20-foot container.
  • Modifications: Modifications and customization are common in the shipping container industry, impacting the price of containers globally. Additional options may include windows, doors, insulation, ventilation, a locking system, etc. Regardless, the more modifications a container has, the higher the price tag.
  • Cost of Delivery: The cost of delivery will fluctuate based on how many containers you purchased and how far they need to travel to reach their final destination. In general, the further you are from a port location, the costlier delivery will be.

How Much Does It Cost to Ship Your Own Container? Like anything, the cost of shipping a container varies based on numerous factors. However, the average cost of shipping a full-container load is around $2,000 to $3,000. Have more questions about shipping containers and how much it costs to ship your own? Reach out to the experts at Three Movers today!

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Chris Townsend is a moving professional and relocation expert that has more than 10 years of experience in the moving industry. With a background that includes working in virtually every aspect of the company, he has distinguished himself as an integral part of our operations with expertise in all things related to moving. Chris has a keen eye for detail and brings intelligence and passion to every project he’s involved with.

While getting his degree in communications from Santa Clara University, Chris started out with the company working in the field as part of our team of professional moving associates. Following graduation, he was promoted to our main office, where he has thrived in a role that involves increasing responsibility and requires him to wear many different hats. Some days, you may find him answering the phone and providing moving estimates, others he may be writing for our moving blog, and another day he may be coordinating a large corporate moving job or helping us with our marketing efforts. Chris has authored many of our in-depth moving guides, as well as provided our clients with information and advice to handle the complexities of their upcoming moving plans. Simply put, there’s nothing he can’t do and we wouldn’t be where we are today without him.

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