Shipping containers have become the undisputable king of modern intermodal logistics. A driving factor behind the surge in popularity since the 1950s has been their impressive durability. The steel structures have been designed from the ground up to protect goods from the harsh conditions of long-distance transportation. However, they are inevitably not invincible. All shipping containers last a certain amount of time before they are deemed no longer useful. This lifespan varies greatly and is determined by a number of factors.
Who you ask
Containers have different lifespans to different people. Container leasing companies tend to depreciate their containers over a period of 10-12 years before they take them out of service. The general consensus for containers not in heavy use (i.e. for storage facilities) is that they can last between 25 and 30 years without any maintenance. However, homeowners who use containers which are well treated and cladded for use in construction will tell you that they can last well over 50 years. Also just because a container is deemed not seaworthy by a shipping conglomerate, does not mean that it is not still useful for a private owner with simpler requirements.
Where it is used
As with any metal construction, a containers lifespan can be cut short by rust. Rust is exacerbated by moisture and seawater. Therefore, sea spray and wet climates will greatly affect how long shipping containers last. Efforts can be made to protect a container from adverse conditions, but no known method can make a container completely impervious to mother nature.
Is it damaged?
If you are purchasing a used (or new for that matter) container, be sure to inspect it thoroughly. Any cracks in paint coatings, or dents in the exterior shell, can encourage the onset of rust and significantly reduce the lifespan of the container.
How to make shipping containers last longer
The best way to extend the lifespan of a container is to minimize its exposure to moisture. Clearly, this is not the most practical of solutions for a vessel designed to transport goods over oceans. That aside, all efforts should be made to minimize the chance of a container rusting. We have a handy guide on steps you can take to minimize pesky oxidation which you can read by clicking here.
Other methods of minimizing moisture contact include; reducing the amount of what is known as 'container rain' (internal condensation) and storing a container off the ground. 'Container rain' can be reduced by being selective with what you store in a container. To read more and get further information, check out our container condensation guide here.
Storing a container off the ground stops the base of the container being in constant with the damp ground and helps it to avoid any flowing groundwater during periods of precipitation. This can slow the deterioration of the container floor. An easy and cost-effective way to store a container raised off the ground can be by using ConFoot legs. ConFoot are lightweight steel supports which can be used to support a container weighing up to 30 tonnes, for as long as needs be. Find out more about the ConFoot solution to container handling here.