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Can I Transport a Modified Shipping Container Overseas by Ship?

3 minute read
Jun 10, 2020
Can I Transport a Modified Shipping Container Overseas by Ship?

Once a shipping container is modified into a repurposed structure, how does it get to where it needs to go? Most of the companies we work with prefer containers to arrive by truck. Transportation by truck is the easiest and most practical method, especially considering containers fit nicely onto a flatbed, tilt bed, or step deck truck. However, we do get requests to transport some structures by ship from the U.S. to other countries. Although transporting a modified container by ship is possible, it is not an easy process.

Keep in mind that although a shipping container is intended to travel by ship, a modified container is no longer qualified to travel in the same way. If you plan to transport your container structure overseas, you’ll need to take steps to recertify your box and communicate with the captain of the ship. The captain has the final say and must agree to travel with your container on board.

Modified Shipping Containers Require Special Considerations


A modified shipping container no longer meets the same transportation requirements it once met as a cargo carrying box. Although the container structure is still incredibly strong and durable as a structure on land, modifications alter the container’s ability to withstand turbulent seas.

Repurposed container structures used on land often surpass structural safety requirements even when considering harsh storms. But at sea, storms may create 30-foot tall waves with incredible power, requiring shipping containers to meet strict qualifications as cargo boxes.

What Changes When a Shipping Container is Modified?


  • Modified container structures often include modifications that protrude past the exterior walls, including air conditioning units or doorknobs. Regardless of the size of these additions, any element that extends past the box shape may make the container unable to be stacked with other cargo boxes.
  • Once container modifiers cut into the walls of a shipping container to create doors or windows, they alter the structural design. The corrugated steel that wraps the container allows the boxes to meet strict maritime travel safety requirements. Therefore, as modifiers remove pieces of the walls, the container loses its certification to travel by sea.

Answers to Common Shipping Container Questions

“So, How Can I Transport My Container by Ship?”

1. You should consider shipping the container not as a cargo box – as it once was – but as a piece of cargo itself. This means your container structure will likely sit latched in on the top deck instead of stacked with the other shipping containers, allowing it to have protruding modifications.

At this point, your container is no longer a “container” in terms of shipping and should be treated more carefully as a piece of cargo.

2. If your container needs to travel a long way, consider recertifying your structure by the Convention for Safe Containers (CSC) standards under the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC). This way, your modified container can travel in the hold with the other containers, which tends to be less expensive.


Every shipping container was once certified according to CSC standards. In fact, containers should display an approved CSC plate before they travel as a cargo box. Notice the steel or brass plate welded to the lower left corner of the cargo doors – this signifies safety approval.

As manufacturers modify a shipping container, the original CSC plate becomes obsolete. To recertify your structure, contact the Approved Continuous Examination Program (ACEP), an organization that regularly inspects shipping containers to travel as cargo boxes.

3. To recertify your container or prove to a ship’s captain that your container structure is ready for maritime travel, you’ll need to hire an engineer. An engineer will design reinforcements that address areas of the box that were cut away when modifications were made. Adding reinforcements helps prevent modified containers from twisting or shifting at sea.

Contact the Ship’s Captain for the Final Say


Taking these steps to ensure your structure meets safety requirements will help ship captains feel more comfortable letting your container on board. Although, keep in mind that the captain of the ship has the final say. Make sure you contact the captain to discuss the possibilities of shipping your structure aboard their ship.

As previously discussed, some shipment methods are easier than others. If you’re interested in a modified shipping container structure, we’d be happy to design and modify the ideal structure for your company. We’re happy to walk you through the best delivery options for your particular project. Give us a call at  877-704-0177 or email at Sales@FalconStructures.com to speak to a Falcon Structures representative.


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