Shipping Container Lifespan. How Long Do They Last?

Shipping containers have become the undisputed heroes of intermodal logistics as we know today. A key driving force behind their popularity since the post-WWII days has been their unshakable durability. The steel structures used in shipping containers are designed to protect goods as they are transported over very long distances, in the harshest of weather conditions imaginable.

However, this doesn’t mean that shipping containers are invincible. Let’s investigate 


How long do shipping containers typically last?

Containers tend to have different lifespans, depending on how they are used. Most container leasing companies typically depreciate their containers over a 10-12 year period before retiring them permanently.

However, the general consensus regarding lifespan for containers which are not in heavy use (such as those used in storage facilities) is an average of 25-30 years. With that said, we’ve seen homeowners using containers which are cladded for construction use and well looked after – lasting a good 50 years or so!

So, to sum it up, used containers can last at least 10-12 years at sea and well beyond that even after they have been retired from ‘sea travels’ – with the proper maintenance in place, it’s not uncommon for sea containers to last 25 years and beyond.

After a shipping container is retired it can be melted down and recycled or by using container modifications, it can be turned into something new and exciting like a shipping container home or portable office.

All in all, this lifespan squarely depends on the container’s condition and the environment they are subjected to. By design, sea containers can resist all kinds of harsh climatic conditions, but one that is exposed to wetter and saltier climates, can wither away sooner than later. The key thing to remember is moisture – the less it is exposed to moisture, the longer it will last. So, if you store your containers off the ground, this will prevent the base getting exposed to moisture and dampness, thus, improving its lifespan.

Do shipping containers leak?

To answer this, we need to look at watertight vs. waterproof containers.  A watertight shipping container has robust, heavy-duty rubber seals that keep water, moisture and wind out. The materials simply do not allow any water in, period. You can find an article we wrote about how watertight ISO containers are here

Can you walk on a shipping container?

Yes, you can! A shipping containers roof is highly durable – but that doesn’t mean it is fail-proof. If you persistently place heavy items on the roof of a container or walk on it frequently, it may dip or flex eventually.

What paint is used on shipping containers?

Shipping containers demand acrylic marine-grade paint with a satin finish which is an exceptionally durable paint. This provides them with the protection they need from daily wear-and-tear.

How do you remove rust from a shipping container?

Rust can be removed from shipping containers a lot easier than you think – all you need is a wire brush and sandpaper. Simply remove the rusted areas using the wire brush and then use the sandpaper to finish. Afterwards, use vinegar on the cleaned areas and let them dry naturally.


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