standard 40-foot ocean container specifications

40-ft standard

inside dimensions:

39-feet, 3/8-th of an inch - long
by 7-feet, 8 and 3/8-th inches - wide
by 7-feet, 9 and 5/8-th inches - high

Question: How big is a container?

Similar to: How big is a hole?

It really depends.

What kind of container is it?

A single card-board box is called "a container".
A milk carton is also called "a container".

So, to avoid confusion, let's review some basics.

Steel ocean shipping containers
come in several sizes and types.

If you are moving overseas
and plan to include your furniture,
lets keep things simple -
and think mainly in terms of
20-foot and 40-foot standard ocean containers.

In terms of shipping
household goods and personal effects,
a 20-foot container is pretty big.

Outside, it's about
8-feet wide by 8-feet high by 20-feet long,
and it comes to you already on a chassis with wheels.
This chassis raises the container up
about 4 feet up, off the ground.

It comes attached to a tractor in the front,
with a trucker driving it.
He's the guy that picks the container up
at the port container yard,
and brings it back to the pier
after it's been loaded and sealed.

Container truckers
do not get involved with labor,
nor extraneous paperwork
- not directly related to his specific task.
Containers show up empty. No cartons, no ramps.
If you want movers and packing materials,
they are separate from the container.

So, how about if you are
moving your entire household overseas?

A 20-ft container can hold the contents
of a typical medium sized apartment.

That includes the typical amount of boxes used to hold
all the various personal effects belonging to
a pair of adults and perhaps a child:
a lot of books, clothes, dishes, pictures, pillows, rugs
extra "stuff" already stored in cartons, and so on...

-- let's say, regarding all those
miscellaneous cartons of personal effects,
this could be / may be / might be...

quite "liberally" estimated ...
to take up around 300-cubic feet.

cardboard comments

"liberal containers..."

Since a standard 20-ft ocean container can hold
over 1,050 - cubic feet of volume,
this would mean there would still be
a lot of room left over
inside that 20-ft container, for furniture.

Let's say you want to include
a "fair amount" of furniture:
a living room set (approximately 300-cft*),
dining room set (150-cft),
a bed room set (200-cft), misc. stored goods (100-cft).
This equals approx. 750-cubic feet

* 300-cubic feet example: (pre-packed volume)
1-loveseat = 40-cft, 1-sofa = 60-cft, 1-coffee table = 15-cft, 2-side tables = 20-cft, 1-china cabinet = 60-cft, 1-easy chair = 35-cft, 1-long wall table = 25-cft, plus misc. smaller items.

Combine about 750-cft of furniture
with 300-cft of personal effects
and this gives you a fully loaded
20-foot container.

Often people may not have enough goods
to completely fill up the container.
But still - it often works out cheaper -
just to go with an "exclusive use" container.
Why? When sending a "partial load" container -
also known as "LCL-less than container load" shipping,
the goods will have to be much more securely packed -
often crated in a "liftvan". The packaging costs are higher,
compared to "loose-loaded" goods that go
directly into a FCL-full container load,
for your own "exclusive use".

This is just to give you a good idea regarding
how much "stuff" you can actually load and fit
into your container, when moving overseas.

The actual volume of household goods that can be loaded into a container will vary, depending on how good of a "fit" one can achieve inside the container. Things tend to fit in, like a "jigsaw puzzle". The total weight can also vary. A full 20-ft container can hold an average weight of approx. 6,000-lbs worth of goods, although if your goods are dense and tightly packed, the overall weight can exceed 7200-lbs.

Pointer to remember:
Usually professional "origin" export packers/movers will base their charges on either the weight or the measure of the goods, whichever is higher. If you have excessively heavy items, inquire as to extra changes for origin packing/handling. But if you pack and load the goods yourself, then the weight is not really relevant. If you do the work to pack and load it yourself- and if it can fit into the container, then it can go.

Learn more about origin packing services, here:

A standard 40-foot ocean container
(pictured at the top of this page)
is twice as long as the standard 20-foot container.

That means twice the internal volume, as well.
That means you can fit a very big "average household"
into a 40-foot container.

If your home has "quite a few" rooms of furniture...
...and storage goods, and new purchases such as large appliances, bath fixtures, extra sets of mattresses, large trunks, a large amount of china...
... a grand piano (specially crated), artwork also specially crated....

...quite possibly you may need to use
multiple containers.

IF... have such a move and will need good quality
"origin packing" by professional export packers/movers...

THEN, by all means...
...please feel free to contact us.

Sefco Export Management Company, Inc.
can provide you with high quality
origin/export packing services.

Our export packers can come into your home
and take care of the entire job.

If you have the budget for it:
Professional movers, including all materials,
special export crating and handling...
...our designated Sefco packing agents will physically pack your delicate items into special dishpacks, linen cartons, book cartons and wardrobe cartons. They inventory everything and load the goods into the container, typically right in front of your home.

If there is difficult access to your pickup residence, sometimes the goods will first need to be loaded into our packers moving truck, trucked back to our packers "home base" warehouse, and then loaded into the ocean container there - "off site".

We always prefer to load our containers
right in front of the pickup residence - "on site".
This allows you to avoid otherwise
unnecessary double handling and extra trucking costs.

Load it once - into the container,
in front or your door...
...and unload it once - out from the container,
at your overseas address...
this is what is best.

For further guidance and advice
to help you figure out
how much volume you have...

Please go to:
Learn more:

Want to learn more about container shipping?
Please have a look at our

Do you have a much smaller load to be shipped?
Read our advice on sending
LCL - "less than container-loads":
Please go to:

Need a shipping rate?
Please go to

Would you like to proceed?
Please go to

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