Shipping containers are the backbone of the logistics industry, helping organisations transport goods across the globe. However, while they are built to be able to withstand the elements, just how long do they last for, and what can you do to extend their lifespan? We thought we would explore this further in our latest blog…
What is the history of shipping containers?
Shipping containers have been a staple of the logistics industry for decades, and in recent years modified containers have appeared across cities and towns as individuals repurpose them. While they might be a common sight now, steel shipping containers first appeared in the late 1950s when American businessman Malcolm McLean began looking for an easy way to transport goods from his trucks to ships.
He realised that it was the storage facility itself that needed to be easy to transport, not the goods that were inside it. So with that in mind, he patented the first shopping container in 1956 and began mass-producing the steel container.
His invention was able to significantly speed up the loading and unloading process, which in turn reduced costs by over 90%! From there, the use of these containers exploded as organisations realised the costs that they could be saving, and fast forward to today, and there are up to an estimated 170 million in use around the world!
What is the lifespan of a shipping container?
By their very nature, shipping containers are designed to be incredibly robust and durable, capable of withstanding years of exposure to the elements. Their very design has been created to prolong their life and ensure they can remain viable containers for years to come. On average, a standard shipping container will be able to last 10-15 years without any care; however, with some careful maintenance, these containers are capable of surviving several decades.
That is not to say that these storage containers are impervious to the elements. Rust is one of the biggest problems that affect shipping containers, and over time this can lead to holes and irreparable damage to the units. Exposure to saltwater only helps to accelerate this deterioration and corrosion.
Signs your container needs repair
Being able to identify signs of wear and tear before they become serious issues is essential in keeping your container as usable for as long as possible. The biggest sign that your container is in need of repair is seeing rust and corrosion appearing on the sides, floor or roof.
Peeling paint is another indication that the elements are beginning to take their toll on the unit, while in damp and humid conditions, you might notice that mould is starting to develop. Seeing that the floor is no longer level is also an indication that your unit might need some TLC, as the structure might be bending.
How to prolong the lifespan of your shipping container?
Shipping containers are an essential part of any global logistics strategy, and the longer that each unit lasts, the more cost-effective that they are. While a standard container can last upwards of ten years without any care, there are several things that you can do to prolong the lifespan of your unit:
1. Keep it covered
One of the biggest threats to the structural integrity of a shipping container is the continuous exposure to the elements. From high winds to heavy rain and strong sunlight, these can all combine to cause increased degradation of the metal and accelerate the risk of rust.
That is why one of the best things that you can do is to ensure that you are covering the exterior as regularly as possible. This does not mean that you need to wrap a large tarp around it, but instead, using specialist treatments that help to reduce the impact of the elements. Coating the exterior of your shipping container can minimise the effect that salt water, rain and UV rays have on the metal.
2. Insulate it
Another top tip to extending the lifespan of your storage container is to ensure that you are insulating it. This could be through the use of specialist foam boards and external blankets or through the use of BATT materials.
Effective insulation can help to control the temperature and moisture inside the unit. Fluctuating temperatures or a build up of moisture within the unit can accelerate corrosion and see holes and signs of damage beginning to appear across the metal.
3. Minimise movement
This might seem a strange tip, as the very nature of a shipping container is for it to travel across the globe. However, continuous loading and unloading can weaken the structure of the unit and lower its overall lifespan.
That is why it is best to keep your container as static as possible when not in use. To do this, you should carefully plan where you will place it before it arrives. You should also try to load and unload it from that same position.
4. Focus on the foundation
Alongside the location you are keeping it in, you also want to consider the foundation of your container. Water and cold conditions can quickly cause the floor of your container to deteriorate and rust. That is why, where possible, you should store it off the ground by either placing it on a foundation or using container legs to keep it elevated.
5. Regular maintenance
Of course, it is only natural that over time your shipping container will begin to show signs of rust or general wear and tear. That is why one of the best tips for extending the lifespan of your container is to carry out regular maintenance.
Regularly reviewing the exterior and interior for signs of damage and repairing any areas of rust, mould, dents, or holes will prevent minor issues from becoming major problems. You also want to ensure that you are replacing any door seals that have become worn and regularly repainting the exterior with water-resistant solutions.
Giving your shipping container a new lease of life
If your container is showing signs of wear and tear, then you could give it a completely new lease of life by transforming it. Modified containers are quickly growing in popularity, providing unique new spaces that can be used for a huge variety of reasons.
Whether it is creating additional living space, a portable site office or even a café, modified containers are a cost effective way of extending the lifespan of these units beyond their traditional use of transporting goods.
Modified containers can be created to meet a huge array of specifications. You can add doors and windows, hardwood floors, separate rooms, electricity and even plumbing. This opens up an entire world of possibilities that can help ensure your shipping container will last for many more years to come.
Here at Modulate Containers, we pride ourselves on offering the very best modified containers possible. For over 20 years, we have been working with our customers to create bespoke units that meet their exact requirements, transforming their containers into whatever they imagine.
All of our tailor-made products are built with love and care, so if you want to find out more about our modified containers, get in touch today for your free quote!