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Open top container

Containers & Pallets
3 min read
Ocean FCL
Ocean LCL


The open top container is one of the most standard international shipping containers. It has characteristics that make it particularly unique. An open top container is a 20-foot or 40-foot container with the distinct difference of, as its name suggests, being open at the top and covered with a tarp whenever possible. The open top container usually costs more to ship than a regular container as there aren’t many units available, which makes it difficult to be reassigned after having arrived at other ports (i.e. return empty).

The open top container is usually used to export or import goods that do not fit in regular containers due to their sizes. These include:

  • Machinery that are too big and require space for their tops to stick out
  • Goods that are too heavy, which makes them difficult to be loaded sideways and need to be loaded from above by a crane

Cost of an open top container

The cost of shipping with an open top container is usually the price of the standard 20-foot or 40-foot container plus an additional cost charged at the destination for being open top. The price is not fixed because it depends on the route and destination’s demand for returning the container with merchandise.

These prices are locked whenever the container is “in gauge”, i.e. the goods do not protrude above the container’s canvas. If the goods protrude out the top, the prices can fluctuate enormously; this is because it becomes impossible to stack other containers above it and so it occupies space where other containers could have been placed, thus being an uneconomic container for shipping companies.

Container dimensions are usually measured using the imperial system (feet) and specifies both the exterior dimensions and the interior or usable dimensions. There are both 20-foot and 40-foot open top containers available.

  • Exterior Dimensions (in feet): 20’ or 40’ long x 8’ wide x 8’ 6” high
  • Exterior Dimensions (in meters): 6.10m or 12.19m long x 2.44m wide x 2.59m high
  • Interior Dimensions (in feet): 19’ 4” or 39’ 6” long x 7’ 9” wide x 7’ 10” high
  • Internal Dimensions (in meters): 5.898m or 12.025m long x 2.352m wide x 2.393m high

Maximum load for an open top container

A 20-foot open top container can support a load of about 28 tons while a 40-foot open top container can support around 30 tons.

If you’re looking to ship FCL with an open top container, search for the best quotes now with iContainers.

If you’re still confused about the process, you may give us a call. Our import and export consultants will be happy to help you out.

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iContainers is a digital freight forwarder based in Barcelona that assists thousands of companies and families around the globe in moving their merchandise internationally.

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We are part of the Agility group, and we work side by side with Shipa Freight to fully cover the demands of our customers.

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