What is container marking? : 9 Container Identifications

You've probably noticed a bunch of codes and numbers all over the containers and wondered what those were and what their purpose was. 

These container numbers are used to communicate the container’s data in correspondence between the vendor, buyer, transporter, regulatory bodies, and any other parties that may be involved in the transaction. Keep reading to learn what each one of these markings represents. 

What is container marking?

Each container includes a variety of marks, such as business names, serial numbers, and codes that show what kind of cargo it can hold and how much weight it is.

Containers must have these required operational markings, which provide all the information required for container movement. Each one of these markings plays an important part in the container's shipping and offers essential information to all parties in the supply chain. 

Plus, it helps with the tracking of the container and maintains the container and cargo’s safety during its transportation from the point of pick-up to the point of delivery.

Mandatory operational container markings? 

1-       Container number

International cargo is identified by a container number, which is a special alphanumeric container marking combination of seven numbers and four letters.


Container prefix

A container marking code consisting of four Latin letters that enables operators and shippers to identify and track the container consists of two codes.

  •     Owner code

     Three capital Latin alphabet letters are used to identify the cargo owner.

  •      Product Group

      a single capital Latin letter (U, J, or Z), where U stands for freight containers, J stands for detachable freight container equipment, and Z        stands for trailers and chassis.


 Serial number

The serial number or a registration number with only six digits.


Check digit

The last number on the right is derived from the container number's four letters and six digits. (the owner prefix, equipment’s identifier letters, and the serial number) to check the accuracy and validation of the container and to identify incorrect container numbers. It is always boxed to distinguish it from the rest of the number.

and you can calculate the check digit through BIC’s calculator.


2-      ISO code

Container Classification (ISO 6346) is a 4-digit code representing the size and type used to identify containers. The first two digits represent the “size code,"  and the last two digits represent the “type code."

The size code is as follows: first, the length, then the width, and finally, the height.

The type code: the third and fourth are for the features and the characteristics, respectively.


3-     Maximum gross and tare mass

The maximum gross weight that they can carry, including their own tare weight and the packaging or container's tare weight without the goods. The maximum gross weight and tare mass might vary from one container to another.


4-     Maximum cargo volume

The maximum cargo volume, or cubic volume, is the maximum amount that can fit into the container. Contrary to weight, it is impossible to pack the container too tightly by volume because it will be obvious.


5-      Height marks for containers

Containers that are 2.6 meters (8 feet, 6 inches) or taller have a height warning. On the container, there are two spots where height marks are visible. One is underneath the container's identification number, while the other is on the top border of each side.

6-     Max. Payload

The net weight is the weight, or mass, of the goods themselves without any packaging. It is the maximum weight of the cargo that can be packed in the container.  It is simply the gross minus the tare weight.


7-      Owner’s logo

The logo of the owner or operator of the container may be a shipping line or a container leasing company.


8-     Manufacturer’s logo

The logo of the manufacturing company of the container


9-     Container safety certificate (CSC)

Some containers include a container marking container safety certificate (CSC) issued by the manufacturer that must be renewed every 30 months by a certified inspector.


There are many types of containers out there for different types of cargo. Even though there can be slight differences in the measurements of containers from different manufacturers, all containers must meet ISO standards. Who is in charge of regulating the recognized container standards? In the following article, you will learn more about the containers 6 most common types of containers.

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