Shipping containers are vital to the world’s economy: Millions of them travel across the world every year, helping provide money for businesses and jobs for countries’ workers. But before a container can make such a journey, it first has to be built. Some steps may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but here’s a look at how a shipping container is born.
A shipping container begins life as part of a rolled-up sheet of steel. Workers cut this steel into smaller sheets, typically eight feet by three feet. Next up is sandblasting and corrugation. The sandblasting cleans and smooths the metal, while the corrugation improves its strength. That’s important, because containers have a rough life: They’re moved from place to place by forklift and crane, and stacked on top of each other several units deep at times.
Assembling the Container
Once the sheets are cut, corrugated, and sandblasted, the container starts to come together. Welders fuse the sheets together to form the container’s wall panels, then attach steel tubing, which comes into play later. The doors–also made of corrugated steel–come next, along with corner posts and the roof. At this point, the container begins to resemble its final form.
Priming and Painting
Different manufacturers do this at different steps, but at some point, our shipping container needs to be primed and painted. Priming makes the metal surfaces more amenable to paint, while paint itself protects the container from corrosion–especially important, since containers face abrasive salt water at sea. Touch-up painting might happen later in the process.
It may have a roof, walls, and doors, but our shipping container still needs a floor. I-beams make up the floor’s frame. To visualize it, picture a bunch of short I-beams running perpendicular to two longer I-beams. This frame attaches to the steel tubing mentioned above. On top of the I-beams goes treated wood flooring.
Our shipping container’s structure is now complete. It just needs a few more steps to make it ready to roll. The container gets stickers to identify its company. It also gets an alphanumeric code. That code identifies the container’s owner, and also lets the owner identify the container.
At this stage, the container also receives waterproofing and inspection for defects. Once it’s through all that, our container is ready to take its first voyage–and join millions of its brethren in supporting commerce around the globe.