Shipping glass effectively is one of the most difficult pieces of the entire industry. That’s why the super effective open-top containers are one of the most common shipping mediums in the glass industry. They look the same on the outside as any container you would see on the bed of a truck or a train, but they have one key difference that separates them from the pack. Let’s unpack what an open top container is, how they’re shipped around the world, and why they just might become your shipping method of choice.

Basics of the Open-Top

Let’s start with the basics of a container. Containers are made of corrugated steel and come in many shapes and sizes, though all are subject to ISO 668 Standards. These standards state the exact dimensions, weights, and materials that can be used in making containers. This standard exists so that all containers, regardless of size or shape, can be easily stacked onto each other during shipping across the ocean.

Open-Top containers vary from a traditional container in one vitally important way: they don’t have a roof. The reason they don’t have a roof, and why its so impactful to the glass industry, is because glass can easily be loaded and unloaded through the roof of the container.

Containers, whether open-top or otherwise, typically run from 20-45 feet in length. Only in special circumstances are other sizes used. Their loads are all approved at around 66,000 lbs. It may seem odd that a 45’ container has the same load as a 20 container, but these restrictions mostly come down to the capacity of the cranes and other loading equipment rather than the capacity of the container itself.

Identification of an Open-Top Container

Every single container on the water is designed to ISO 6346 standards. You can read into the details of how ISO 6346 works, but it basically gives standards so that all crates can be easily identified by listing out code for the owner of the container, country code, size, and type of container.

These codes are incredibly important when you consider just how many containers are on a cargo ship at any one point. Some cargo ships can carry up to 20,000 containers at once, making ISO codes absolutely crucial to get each container to the correct destination.

Open top contianers are identified by the following list of codes:

U0 Open Top – Openings at one or both ends
U1 Open Top – Idem + removable top members in end frames
U2 Open Top – Openings at one or both ends + openings at one or both sides
U3 Open Top – Idem + removable top members in end frames
U4 Open Top – Openings at one or both ends + partial on one and full at other side
U5 Open Top – Complete, fixed side and end walls (no doors)


Transport, and Loading

The reason why open-tops are used so often is the ease of loading and unloading glass, but they do need some special machinery to deal with the weight being moved. Cranes are required for moving open-top containers from one method of shipping to another. Over the life of a container’s journey, it will likely be placed on a truck, a ship, and a train before it reaches its destination.

Loading and unloading an open-top container is both its strength and weakness. If a loading center has a heavy-duty forklift or small crane, they can easily insert and remove the stoche glass that’s held inside the container. However, if a facility doesn’t have this capability then the whole process becomes much more difficult.

Because of the ease of use and adherence to standards, it’s likely that open-top containers will continue to be the top choice of the glass industry. At Barrett Limited, we make sure your team has the best shipping options available. From open-top containers, to personalized logistics, we make the importing process as simple as possible. If you’re interested in learning more about our process and how it can revolutionize your business just like open-top containers have revolutionized the industry, send our U.S. based team a message!

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