Container 101: Shipping by Land & Sea is More Than Just Another ‘Magic Carpet Ride’

Heading to the supermarket, you may grab a six-pack of soda, bundle of paper towels, and box of cereal. Or, you might pick up fresh raspberries, a slab of ribs, seafood, or even a bouquet of fresh flowers. Despite the diversity, it’s likely all those goods were transported along the grocery supply chain via a “storage container” transported either atop a tractor trailer along the highway or on the deck of a cargo ship at sea.

Globally, estimates for the number of storage containers in use widely vary from five million to 170 million. In reality, the exact number isn’t known. “Clearly, though, the shipping container is front and center when it comes to ease of transport and helping goods get where they need to go,” says Yulieth Onofre, Prime Logistics Group Sales Manager based in Miami.

In the consumers’ eyes, cargo’s seemingly sudden and effortless journey in a storage container is “a bit of a ‘magic carpet ride,’” but in reality, she adds “it’s a precise, carefully orchestrated trip, with a lot of moving parts—all at once. And different cargo requires ‘different strokes’ along the way at every step.”

That’s why tapping an experienced logistics firm with a team of skilled experts to assist is a smart corporate move.

One fact is clear. Shipping containers is big business. According to Allied Market Research, “the global shipping containers market was valued at $8.70 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $12.08 billion by 2027.” That’s a compound annual growth rate of 4.3 percent.

Container 101: By the Numbers

Size-wise, most storage containers are either 20 feet long or 40 feet long. The standard container height is 8.6 feet high. Standard width is 8 feet wide. But this shipping sector isn’t “one size fits all.”

Onofre also cites other options including high cube containers (20HC or 40HC), which are essentially a foot higher. They’re great when transporting light, voluminous, dry cargo. In contrast, a flat-rack container (FR) with collapsible sides is optimum when transporting a boat, machinery. or an automobile. Also, an open-top container (OT) is often used to transport humongous logs, a large piece of industrial machinery, or project cargo.

For perishable goods, special, refrigerated storage containers (reefer containers) keep goods fresh by maintaining a certain temperature and humidity, varying by cargo. That could mean fresh fish, medicines, frozen seafood, vaccines, and delicate temperature-sensitive plants, produce, or flowers – to name a few products. Learn more about reefer container shipping by reading one of our recent blogs:

People in the worldwide cargo industry are familiar, of course, with the term TEU. That’s a standard measurement system for containers and also used to “size” vessels. For instance, one 20-foot container is a “Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit” or 1 TEU. So, if a shipper has two such 20-foot containers filled with a particular cargo, they’re shipping 2 TEUs.

More Container Tidbits

So, who makes shipping containers? China is by far the world’s top producer of shipping containers, and other large manufacturers include the USA (California), Denmark, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and India.

Definitely built to last, most storage containers are made of corten steel (“weathered steel”), adding both strength and anti-corrosive protection. For instance, if an ocean ship sails through rough seas, the top-deck storage containers can weather any saltwater splashing. Marine-grade plywood is also used to build some storage containers.

To ensure that any container is up to snuff for design/construction, look for the container’s CSC plate from the International Convention for Safe Containers. That means it’s safe to use.

Storage containers are built with reinforced “corners, so they can be easily rigged to cranes. Cranes can lift them to and from a truck, flatbed rail car or ocean ship or stack them atop other containers at a pier or warehouse.

Most containers also have handy forklift slots/pockets, so they can be easily moved from one spot to another. At times, containers must be connected to each other for stability. Fortunately, nifty twist locks will help keep them from shifting in transit.

Support-wise, container floors are built with “cross members” – beams and joists that run side to side. To avoid any “critters” or insect visitors, sturdy container floors often are infused with protective coatings including insecticides. And to keep moisture at bay, some containers are built with a small space between the ground and the container’s actual flooring – providing ventilation via air ducts.

“On the security side, rest assured that most containers have color-coded, numbered security seals that – combined with the container’s locking device – assure a strong level of sealed security,” Onofre adds. But if the container arrives and the seal is broken, it’s an alert that the container has been opened.

So, presto, let’s assume a company’s container has arrived at its final destination in great shape. How is the cargo removed? Shipping containers usually offer a cargo door structure that’s actually two steel cargo doors, often with locking mechanisms. But there are differences here too. Sometimes the entire side of the container opens for easy removal of cargo.

Transforming Worldwide Shipping

“Cargo shipping via storage containers has been around for more than five decades,” says Onofre. “To say that standardized containers have transformed customer shipping and transport is an understatement. More than $3 trillion in global trade is transacted annually, and shipping containers have played a pivotal role in the sector’s growth.”

While the storage container marketplace continues to evolve, more than 80 percent of all trade goods are shipped by sea, and 60 percent of them are shipped via storage containers. If your business needs storage container assistance, call Prime Logistics to discuss your needs. Experienced shipping and handling experts are ready to assist. We know storage containers inside and out!

About Prime Logistics

One of four divisions of Prime Group, an international logistics services conglomerate founded in Ecuador in 2001, Prime Logistics serves to streamline, optimize, and expedite freight to and from the U.S. for a wide range of major industries.

With offices in Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Bogota, Quito, and Amsterdam, Prime Logistics capitalizes on its long-time relationships with the major air carriers and ocean lines to offer competitive rates in securing ample space to destinations all around the world.

For information, call 305-592-2044 or visit

Navigating the Changing Waters of Shipping via Reefer Containers

While some of our clients have reported improvements in their business for 2021, others are clearly happy the year is over. So, as we begin to navigate through 2022, what’s likely ahead for clients who use “reefer containers” to transport their goods?

First, though, a bit about the terminology for those who don’t deal with this element of our shipping industry day-to-day. So, what exactly is a reefer storage container? In nautical use, a “reefer” is a person who “reefs” such as a midshipman or a commercial fisherman. But in the world of logistics, reefer storage containers are those equipped with a refrigeration device to create the proper temperature, humidity, and atmosphere for perishable goods.

Reefer storage containers can safely transport fresh fish, seafood, meat, vegetables, dairy products, frozen food, flowers, pharmaceuticals, and other perishables. They’re placed on reefer cargo ships, which continue the goods’ comfortable, temperature-controlled journey across oceans and between continents.

Trends in 2022 and Beyond

So, examining that “reefer storage container marketplace,” here are trends that Prime Logistics sees for 2022 and beyond:

Certainly, the market is growing. In 2019, the reefer container market was estimated at 3,169.2 thousand TEUs and by 2030, it’s projected to be 7063.3 thousand TEUs, according to a Prescient Strategic Intelligence report. A TEU is a 20-foot equivalent unit of cargo capacity for container ships. Each TEU is based on one 20-foot-long intermodal container.

Given the 2020-2021 shortages of reefer shipping containers, it’s also good news that shipping container manufacturers in the U.S., Europe, China, Taiwan, and elsewhere are now producing more new reefer containers than pre-pandemic. That’s helped reduce the length of shipping backlogs and improve availability in some regions.

The Perfect Storm

That said, the reality early in 2022 is that reefer containers are still scarce in many spots. So, continuing shipping delays are likely in 2022, particularly from certain regions. “People often ask us why the increased production of new reefer containers isn’t doing the trick to balance supply and demand,” notes Yulieth Onofre, Prime Logistics Group Sales Manager based in Miami. “Well, it’s a combination of factors that have created ‘the perfect storm.’”

For example, businesses stung by delays in shipping the past two years due to container shortages have increased their orders in a big way. “Many of our clients are shipping many more goods than in the past as they work to rebuild their inventories,” she emphasizes. Clients fearful of shipping delays are also ordering on a longer lead-time.

While Prime Logistics saw evidence late last summer that supply and demand were inching closer together, then the rise and spread of the Delta and Omicron variants of the COVID-19 virus reversed that dynamic. During this pandemic era, increased pharmaceutical transport of biologics, vaccines, cellular therapies, and blood products – all requiring temperature-controlled containers – is increasing.

Early in 2022, reefer cargo ships, both large and small, are fully utilized and in short supply in some regions. Separately, some vessels previously designated for reefer container business have been shifted by their owners to carry dry cargo instead.

Most notably, though, is that pandemic-weary consumers are in a “buy, buy, buy” mode.” Many retail establishments have reopened, and e-commerce is strong. Consumers are ordering “at will” on a day-to-day basis to reward themselves, often from the comfort of their living rooms. Product import levels, as a result, are record setting.

After more than a year of those record imports, month after month, the system is stressed to the max. “We’ve seen delays in port terminal access, ship schedules, rail services, truck transport, and also a shortage of equipment availability,” says Onofre. New ocean trade routes are also putting a strain on ocean reefer container ship availability.

“Yet, despite those supply chain issues beyond our control, our Prime Logistics team works around the clock to assist our clients,” she points out.  “We’re creative and solution-focused, and while we obviously can’t ‘fix’ the world’s supply chain issues, we’re committed to ensuring that our clients know all their options and keeping them informed.”

Demand is Off the Chart

Unfortunately, the cost of transporting goods continues to zoom higher as imports reach record levels and demand is “off the chart.” Thus, reefer container operators continue to raise prices for transport. In the December 2021 edition of “Drewry’s Container Forecaster” report, Drewry Maritime Financial Research (DMFR) projected higher freight rates in 2022 for businesses using reefer containers.

Trend-wise, Prime Logistics is seeing a bit less price inflation (although it’s still happening, for sure) on North-South trade routes for ocean transport of reefer containers; that’s particularly the case for export transport from some regions of South America and Central America. In contrast, East-West routes such as those between the U.S. and Asia are increasingly experiencing a bit higher price inflation.

Globally, Asia-Pacific (APAC) accounts for the largest share in the global reefer container market, and that’s expected to continue, according to a recent Prescient Strategic Intelligence report. But with rapid urbanization, Latin America (LATAM) is expected to post the highest growth rate in the market moving forward. Look for the most growth in the 40-foot reefer container category.

Supply Chain Challenges

Between 2020-2030, Prescient also projects global reefer container market growth at 8 percent. But can customers expect those pesky supply chain issues to disappear? Previously, Drewry had projected that ongoing supply-chain issues within the reefer container marketplace would begin easing by mid-2022. Now, it’s adjusted that projection to sometime in 2023.

“While we’re hoping that conditions will improve as the year progresses, this year is still likely to deliver many challenges for businesses,” acknowledges Onofre. “Definitely, give us a call if we can assist your business. We’re a solid, proactive asset to have on your side. We’ll assure you’re doing all possible to navigate successfully through the volatile reefer shipping marketplace in 2022.”

About Prime Logistics

One of four divisions of Prime Group, an international logistics services conglomerate founded in Ecuador in 2001, Prime Logistics serves to streamline, optimize, and expedite freight to and from the U.S. for a wide range of major industries.

With offices in Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Bogota, Quito, and Amsterdam, Prime Logistics capitalizes on its long-time relationships with the major air carriers and ocean lines to offer competitive rates in securing ample space to destinations all around the world.

For information, call 305-592-2044 or visit

As New Year Blossoms, Prime Logistics Readies for Busy Flower Season Ahead

Are you rested and ready for the New Year? You better be, as the floral transport industry is about to enter its busiest time of year – with the one-two-three punch of Valentine’s Day, International Women’s Day, and Mother’s Day upon us. You can rest assured, the experts at Prime Logistics are ready. We’ve been managing the shipment of international perishables and non-perishables for our customers for more than 20 years now!

Valentines Day Planning Underway

For this day of lovers, which is different than most other holidays, consumers generally stick with long-stem reds, pinks, and sometimes whites – millions of them. With a roughly 24-day period from the grower to the end customer, the first round of activity leading up to Valentine’s Day on February 14 is here. In fact, many wholesalers forward their price lists to retailers as soon as the day after Christmas. Next step, in about mid-January, is to send their supply lists to the South American flower growers, to ensure arrival starting the first few days of February. This is where Prime Logistics steps in.

With the official shipping window for this first major flower-giving period of the year being Jan. 20 to about Feb. 8, Prime Logistics and sister company Prime Fresh Handling project they’ll be managing nearly 8 million kg of flower shipments each month out of both Colombia and Ecuador during the first two months of 2022. Using our dedicated air cargo partners Atlas Air and Emirates SkyCargo, the successful handling of such an immense volume of product is a reflection of the deep dedication we have in bringing South America’s finest fresh flowers to U.S. wholesalers and retailers this time of year — and in fact to multiple customers around the world all throughout the year.

International Women’s Day

Following Valentine’s Day, our logistics teams basically have one week to recover before getting busy again. Next up is the peak period of production and distribution supporting International Women’s Day. With Ecuador serving as the primary source of flowers for this March 8 holiday each year, the efforts of our team in Quito and Amsterdam are crucial to advancing our shipping company’s winning strategies at meeting the demand of its valued customers.

In fact, the Ecuadorian flower market supplies more than 70 countries around the world with floriculture products. But when it comes to Women’s Day, Russia is the number one market.

On this day, people celebrate by delivering flowers to powerful women in their life, historically with the mimosa flower, a symbol of strength, sensibility, and sensitivity. White roses are also very popular.

Mother’s Day

And finally, it’s Mother’s Day on May 8, another hugely popular flower-giving holiday around the world. The peak period of activity preceding mum’s day is mid-April through about May 1. Accounting for one-fourth of the floral purchases made on any holiday, some call it the Super Bowl of flowers.

We call it another day at the office.

Well in excess of 20 million flowers from Colombia and Ecuador are planned to be cut, gathered, and shipped during the 2022 Valentine’s Day/Women’s Day season. We’re still assessing anticipated volume for Mother’s Day, so as soon as we catch our collective breath, we’ll get back to you on that!

Frantically filling back-to-back freighters from nose to tail, day after day, it’s a pressure-packed experience that’s exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. We are fortunate at the Prime Logistics to boast some of the best-qualified and seasoned experts in the flower industry. They work hard to keep our ground game running smoothly for our customers, year after year.

So ‘tis the season for flowers, flowers, and more flowers. Prime Logistics is your service and we wish you all the best.