Shipping Container Numbers and Their Markings Breakdown
When looking at a shipping container door, have you ever noticed it is covered with various numbers and letters? Contrary to your beliefs, there is a method to their madness! Ha! The various markings do provide important information about the ownership, contents, transportation, and condition of the container. Let’s look at shipping container numbers and their markings breakdown.
“In 1933 the Bureau International des Containers (BIC) was created by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in an effort to educate business people in the development of international and intermodal transport and its practical aspects. (BIC) was established in 1933 as Bureau International des Containers.” – BIC
ISO 6346 standard was created in 1970 by BIC to help standardize the tracking and marking of containers around the world. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) adopted this system in 1972.
On the top right section of the container door, you will see the container number displayed. First, you will see the Prefix. This will be four letters. ISO assigns the number to identify the unit internationally. The first part of the Prefix is the Owners Code or the owner of the container, which is three digits. The last letter, the Equipment Category Identifier indicates the category. Product Group Code is another term to identify the category.
- U – This letter signifies that it is a freight container.
- J – This letter refers to attached, or detachable, container-related equipment such as a power unit.
- Z- This letter distinguishes if it is a trailer and/or chassis.
Typically you can also find the Owner’s logo on the side of the container. Some companies even have a specific paint color.
After the Prefix is the Registration Number. Serial Number might be a common term you could hear as well. The Registration Number is a sequence of 6 digits, decided by the owner.
At last, enclosing the 7th digit in a box is the Check Digit Number. The Check Digit verifies or validates the accuracy of the Owners Code and Serial Number.
Furthermore, if you search the container number with the BIC (Bureau of International Containers), the matching check digit should appear.
The ISO Code is 4 letters or digits usually located below the container number. This code will provide information about the container dimensions and type of container.
The first character signifies the length of the unit and the second character represents the width and height. The third character identifies the container type and the last character indicates a container of reduced strength. A container also has one of the following markings, depending on the country.
Dry Van (DV)
General Purpose (GP)
Dry Container (DC)
Mandatory Operational Markings
Also shown on the doors are Operational Characteristics. These markings tell us information for the transportation of containers. They also give us visual warnings. Maximum Gross Weight, Tare, and Payload are examples. This signifies the most weight the loaded container can carry. Typically, this is around 30 metric tons. The Payload is the gross weight minus the tare weight. Meaning, packing contents into a container has maximum weight restrictions. Lastly, you will find The Maximum Cargo Volume.
Additionally, on the lower left of the container doors, you will find the CSC (International Convention for Safe Containers) Plate. A Convention for container safety was adopted in 1972 at a conference with the United Nations and the International Maritime Organization. This was the International Convention for Safe Containers. Every shipping container used for international transport needs a valid CSC plate to verify that the unit is in good condition and safe to travel overseas on cargo ships.
In conclusion, they are not pulling shipping container numbers and their markings from a hat! The markings have a specific purpose! Who knew?
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