Shipping Container vs. Sea Container: A Battle of Champions

When it comes to containers, two models reign supreme: the shipping container and the sea container. On the surface, these two units look a lot alike—and they do share some similarities—but their key features differ.

Both shipping and sea containers are durable, strong, and are more than equipped to meet your shipping and storage needs. But if you’re choosing between the two, you need to know what makes them unique so you can choose the unit that meets your requirements. So let’s “dive” into the complex world of sea containers vs. shipping containers.

What Is a Shipping Container?

A shipping container is a steel unit that serves multiple purposes throughout the commercial world. Shipping containers can be used to transport goods by land or sea, and are also great for commercial storage and can even be useful in construction and building projects. Most people opt to rent or buy used shipping containers because it’s more cost-effective; these units can last for over 20 years, so even if you go with a 10-year-old unit, that container still has a lot of life left in it.

What Is a “Sea Can” or “Sea Container”?

Sea containers are like the Navy SEALs of shipping containers. Structurally and physically, they look pretty similar, and like shipping containers, sea containers are used to transport cargo by sea, train, and land.

The main difference between these two units is that sea containers meet ISO standards, which include rigorous requirements for structural soundness and overall unit safety. The ISO is an independent, non-governmental organization that certifies cargo containers as being safe to travel in land and sea conditions. ISO compliance means that sea containers meet structural and weight requirements that deem them safe for marine use, whereas shipping containers do not. Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t transport shipping containers on a boat, but it does mean that sea containers will provide levels of safety and security that shipping containers will not.

It’s important to note that ISO standards depend on the cargo that a specific container will hold. For a container carrying dry goods, requirements look a bit different than for units used to transport liquids which can be more dangerous and challenging.

Since sea containers are required to meet strict ISO safety standards, they are usually purchased or rented new, as containers’ structural integrity tends to degrade slightly over time.

Main Difference Between a Sea Container and a Shipping Container

The best way to explain the differences between these units is that all sea containers are shipping containers, but not all shipping containers are sea containers. Sea containers are shipping containers that are designed to pass certain tests to get them an ISO certification. Often, sea containers are transitioned to shipping containers once they have been used at sea long enough to lose some of the structural integrity required by the ISO.

Once a sea container retires to a more relaxed shipping container life, it may be repurposed as a commercial storage unit due to its strength, size, and versatility.

Which Container Should You Get?

This one is easier than it sounds. If you are going to use your shipping container to transport items by sea, go with a sea container every time. For all other uses, including commercial storage and construction, a shipping container is going to be your best and most affordable bet. Because sea containers often lose their ISO certification far before the end of their lifespan, it is easy to find former sea containers to fill all of your commercial storage and construction needs.

Mobile Mini: Your Local Shipping Container Experts

Mobile Mini is the largest provider of commercial shipping container storage and jobsite solutions in North America. Being the biggest means that wherever you live, chances are you’re mere miles from a Mobile Mini branch staffed by experts ready to walk you through all of your shipping container questions and needs.

At Mobile Mini, our units:

  1. Come in a range of standard and extra-wide sizes to accommodate all types of storage and jobsite needs.
  2. Are constructed from 100% corrugated steel, some of the strongest metal on Earth.
  3. Are freshly cleaned and sanitized before every rental. Our rigorous cleaning process ensures that your equipment will not pick up dirt, dust, or odors from anything stored in the unit before you obtained it.
  4. Come standard with our patented tri-cam locking system, which features locks that cannot be cut, hacked, picked, or disrupted. They’re virtually theft-proof.
  5. Are weather-proof and built to withstand even the toughest storms and natural disasters.
  6. Are inspected before each rental. Our container exteriors provide protection from the elements, help limit heat absorption inside of your unit, and ensure that your shipping container has a clean and professional aesthetic.
  7. Come with a dedicated team of experts available 24/7 to troubleshoot issues and answer any questions that come up.

When it comes to shipping containers, commercial storage, and jobsite solutions, Mobile Mini can’t be beat. Our team of experts is standing by to get you outfitted with the products you need and the solutions you crave.

Trying to load an 8,000-pound sea container onto a cargo ship is tough. Storage doesn’t have to be. Contact us today and see how easy storage can be!