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Understanding TEU: A crucial part of the global trade

Understanding TEU: A crucial part of the global trade

In the world of maritime shipping and logistics, one term you’ll hear frequently is “TEU”, The term we chose to represent us! This abbreviation stands for “Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit”, and it is the standard unit used to quantify container capacity in the shipping industry.

The Origins of TEUs

The Origins of TEUs
The Origins of TEUs

After Malcolm McLean developed the first shipping container in 1956, Many container types with varying sizes and locking mechanisms were used. This variety posed problems loading these containers on trucks and ships. The concept of TEU emerged in 1968 when the Hakon Maru, a Japanese registered ship, sailed between Japan and the west coast of the US carrying 752 TEU containers.

Why Use TEUs?

In the world of shipping, efficiency and standardization are key. Using a specific unit ensures smooth communication and accurate capacity measurement.

It’s important knowing that TEUs standardization goes beyond just measuring space on ships. It makes shipping overall more streamlined. Using TEUs and containers as a common unit simplifies loading, unloading, and cuts costs throughout the global supply chain. In addition, containers can easily move between ships, trucks, and trains without needing to be swapped or repacked

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TEU Dimensions

The external length of a TEU container is 20 feet and the width is 8 feet. The height ranges from 4 feet 3 inches (1.3 m) to 9 feet 6 inches (2.9 m). However, the most common height is 8 feet 6 inches (2.59 m).

The internal dimensions for loading are a length of 19 feet 4 inches, a width of 7 feet 8 inches, and a height of 7 feet 10 inches.

It’s important to mention that there may be minor differences between containers made by different manufacturers. 


While TEU represents a container with a length of 20 feet, FEU is an acronym for Forty-foot Equivalent Unit. For example, if you are shipping 2 TEU containers and 1 FEU container, it means that you are shipping 4 TEU containers or 2 FEU containers.

Although both terms describe the size of a shipping container and are used as standardized measures for the amount of volume being shipped, TEUs provide a standardized way to express a ship’s capacity regardless of the actual container mix onboard. For example, The largest container ship is advertised as having a capacity of 24,346 TEUs. This doesn’t necessarily mean it can only hold 24,346 twenty-foot containers. It could hold a combination of 20-foot and 40-foot containers, but the total cargo space is equivalent to stacking 24,346 twenty-foot containers on deck.

Different types of TEUs

20’ Refrigerated container: containers used for transporting perishables and temperature-sensitive cargo such as fruits, vegetables, meat, etc.. Refrigerated containers are equipped with a refrigeration unit that is connected to the power supply of the ship.

20’ Non-Operating Reefer Container (NOR): refrigerated shipping container, with a disabled refrigeration unit. Instead of loading these reefers with temperature sensitive cargo, they are loaded with cargo that would typically be used for a general purpose container

20’ Open-Top Container: container fitted with a tarpaulin roof instead of solid roof. Used for transportation of oversized loads.

20’ Side Door Container: Container having an extra door on one of the longer sides of it. This simplifies the loading and unloading of large and oddly-shaped cargo.

20′ flat rack: Twenty-foot open-topped and open-sided unit that fits into an existing below-deck container and is used for oversized cargo and wheeled or tracked vehicles. Lashing rings are used to secure cargo to this container.

TEU Door Markings

TEU Door Markings

1- Classification Mark: Each container is tested for its strength, cargo and seaworthiness by a classification society.

2-Owner’s Logo: The logo of the shipping line, freight forwarder or NVOCC that owns the container.

3-Repair Recommendation: Tells you if the container needs repair.

4-Combined Data Plate: This plate includes the Customer Convention for Containers (CCC) reference to allow transport under customs seal, plus the name and details of the container operator.

5-Container Number: A unique sequence made up of 4 letters and 7 numbers. The classification agency ISO assigns the number to identify the unit internationally.

6- Maximum Gross Weight: The total allowable weight of the container as well as the cargo that is packed inside it.

7-Tare Weight: The weight of an empty container.

8-Maximum Payload: The Payload or Net Weight is the weight of the cargo or contents that a container can hold. The container Max Payload should not be exceeded.

9-Capacity: The volume of material that can be held within the container. It’s usually measured in liters or gallons. It isn’t the same as the volume of the water that would be displaced if the container is immersed in water.

10-Height Warning: A mandatory warning plate for all the containers over 8.6ft (2.4m) in height.

11-Manufacturer’s Logo: The logo of the manufacturer of the container.


For us, the meaning of TEU extends beyond a unit of measurement. It represents our commitment to excellence, reliability, and customer satisfaction.

We leverage the power of TEU to deliver top-notch logistics solutions, ensuring seamless shipping experience while upholding the highest standards of quality.


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