What happens to empty shipping containers?
Ever thought about what happens to empty shipping containers when they are no longer needed?
Once containers get discharged at a shipping port, they are sent to the consignee’s warehouse or distribution centre. It’s only at this point that they become empty, and one of three things will typically happen now:
- The empty container will be loaded with a fresh batch of cargo and then shipped from the port to the designated location;
- They will be sent to a new destination for empty shipping repositioning;
- They may end up in depots and ports in case they are no longer needed.
In most cases, however, a container will get sent back to the depot for storage as soon as it comes off-hire. And, before it can go out again, it must undergo re-certification to ensure that it is safe for use and reliable enough to travel long distances. If necessary, it will be refurbished. Once the container has served its intended life and no longer useful, it may be melted down and recycled or used for scrap metal.
What actually happens to empty shipping containers – Is it always the same?
The above three scenarios is what tends to happen with most shipping companies. However, this is certainly not etched in stone because how shipping containers get treated when they are empty varies from shipping company to shipping company.
For instance, many companies prioritise recycling over everything else, and will recycle containers as many times as possible before selling, scrapping or discarding them.
What happens to empty shipping containers also depends on how the cargo container is owned. For example, if the box has been purchased by the shipping line carrying the goods, they might store the containers in their port storage or warehouse, which will also be used to load goods on return ships.
If the exporter is also the owner of the freight unit, they may want to sell the empty containers at the destination – that is, if carrying them on the return trip proves to be too costly. Alternatively, freight owners may also rent or lease the empty containers to traders at the destination port.
In some instances, such as when the cargo isn’t claimed by anyone at the port (due to damaged goods or missing items), the container owner may auction off the empty containers in order to claim freight charges, detention or demurrage charge.
The examples don’t end here though – some container owners have even transformed their empty containers into a portable office of sorts! Talk about a change of scenery every few days while working!
Millions of shipping containers go unused each year – up until a few years ago, it was estimated that of the 17 million containers that were in use worldwide, only 6 million were actually being used for transport or other practical purposes, such as recycling, storage or selling. So, that means 11 million containers were just sitting stagnant not serving any useful purpose whatsoever.
Not sure what to do with your empty containers? Cargostore can certainly advise on what to do with those.
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