Used container grading & Certification

Used container Certification and Grading

We often get asked “what grade are the containers you sell? A, B, C? “, and we honestly always have trouble answering that question because there is no clearly defined universal grading system for containers. This paper is therefore intended to help clarify and alleviate some of the confusion you might find yourself in when dealing with container grading and certification. When purchasing new or second hand containers you will come across all sorts of “grades” and certification acronyms. This jargon usually sounds like: WWT, CW, IICL, CSC or ACEP… making it all sound complicated and confusing, when in actuality, it is fairly simple.

Container certification:

Let’s start with main acronyms you could run into when dealing with used shipping or storage containers:

  • IICL – Institute of International Container Lessors – an organization which groups the largest container and chassis leasing companies worldwide. The IICL sets repair standards, by which all repairs are carried out, for its members when containers are off hired. IICL is the strictest criterion out there for used containers.
  • CWCargo Worthy– Criterion under which a used shipping container is deemed suitable for the transport of cargo under TIR / UIC / CSC, and meets all the standards laid out in its original specification.  The CW Cargo worthy standard generally implies that the container has a valid CSC.  Cargo Worthiness can be certified by a third party container surveyor pursuant to a physical inspection of the used shipping container.
  • WWT – Wind & Water Tight  – a criterion under which containers are literally “wind and water tight”. In short, if you lock yourself inside the container, you should not see any light coming through the panels or roof. It should be noted that this criterion however makes no reference to the quality of the understructure. A WWT container should therefore not be considered safe for the transport of cargo; unless it is explicitly confirmed it meets the CSC. WWT is commonly used to describe and qualify used storage containers. WWT + CSC = CW !
  • CSC – Convention for Safe Containers – established in 1972 to promote and maintain a high level of safety of human life in the transport and handling of containers by providing generally acceptable test procedures and related strength requirements. This has helped facilitate the international transport of containers by providing uniform international safety regulations.
  • ACEP – Approved Continuous Examination Program – quality inspection programs put in place by container owners to monitor the condition and maintenance of their containers. As long as a unit is monitored under an ACEP, the periodic CSC re-inspection is not necessary. The exit from the program under which the container was (originally) built and maintained (in case of sale) means that containers will need to be inspected under CSC in order to be approved for shipping and will have an approval limited in time.
  • ISO – International Standardization Organization – International organization based in Geneva working towards harmonizing worldwide technical standards; including those governing the construction of shipping containers.

Container Grading:

As mentioned, when talking about grading standards it should be noted that grading is usually a company’s internal classification system and not an international standard for purchasing containers. This means, that although 2 companies could both classify their containers in terms of grade A, B, or C, it does not mean that a Grade A will be the same for both. These grading are not international standards, and tend to refer more to the cosmetics of the container rather than the structural quality. If you are offered a graded container make sure to ask for a CLEAR definition of the grading system. In effort to give readers an idea of what they could expect, we have compiled a table of the most common classifications associated with various grading categories:

Used container grading, classification and certification

Used container grading and classification

The real questions ?

Most importantly when purchasing a container you have to consider and define clearly your needs and preferences. The 3 basic questions you probably want to ask yourself are:

  1. Do I need / want a container for cargo ?
  2. Do I need / want a container for storage ?
  3. How important are cosmetics to me ?

Those are the real questions that need to be answered when shopping for a container to better choose the container certification you need. Whether in a coastal city or inland, there are people that can supply you with used storage or shipping containers. A quick internet search will generally bring up a few names that you can call. Not all of them will be in your area, but that does not mean they won’t be able to come up with what you need.

Some of these people own the containers they sell, others will broker the deal, but in the end if they are professionals, and there are many of them out there, you will be able to find a used container. The internet is loaded with sites of companies that claim they can be everything to everybody and can deliver everything you might desire. Beware ! Many times you will notice that sites do not list an office address or anything about them or their owners and operators. If you don’t have a regular supplier, don’t hesitate to check with more than one source and ask for references. Choosing the right supplier is probably the most important step on your way to making a container purchase.