Source: adapted from T. Toikka (2006) "The Real Price for Container
Transportation between Asia and Europe", Lappeenranta University of
Technology, Department of Industrial Engineering and Management.
Number of Units and Weight of Standard Consumption Goods that Can
be Carried by a 20 Foot Container
Shippers try to use the volume and weight limits of the
container in the most optimal way. Depending of the characteristics of the goods being carried, namely
the weight-to-volume ratio, a 20 foot container may not be the optimal
unit. For instance, twice as much cell phones, DVD players or shoes could
be carried on a 40 foot container without infringing the weight restrictions,
which are around 27,000 kilograms. The cargo runs out of available
volume before running out of available weight ("weighting out"
versus "cubing out"). Since the costs of handling
a 40 footer are not much higher than a 20 footer, there are notable
advantages at using this load unit (or better a high cube 40 footer)
For ponderous goods such as copying paper, the 20 footer is the optimum
load unit as about 1,700 units each weighting just over 20,000 kilograms
can be carried, which is the maximum permissible weight. Using a 40 footer for such a load,
which is twice the volume, would carry only 2,150 units (27.6% more).
Yet, a 20 footer may be a suitable unit for goods with a low weight-to-volume
ratio if the demand of the consignee is not high enough to justify a
more efficient load (40 foot) or if freight distribution is more dependent
on higher frequency and smaller batches.