Container Numbers

We see shipping containers all over the place. Sometimes they are on the highway on the back of a trailer or sometimes they are sitting behind a building or waiting to be loaded on to a ship. Whatever the reason, on every container there is a unique number that differentiates that container from another. This is simply referred to as the container number. But what does the container number stand for? What can you tell by looking at a container number? If you ask anyone in the shipping industry they may only be able to tell you part of this information.

Most people know that the first three letters stand for the company who owns the container. For instance if the letters are MAEU, the MAE stands for Maersk. It is always three capital letters and the code is registered with the Bureau of International des Conteneurs in France. The U at the end is the letter for all standard cargo containers. If there is an R, it is a reefer. The next six digits are for the owner of the container. It is how they can keep track of their fleet. They most likely go in order of when the container was purchased. The last digit is called the check digit. This is literally used to check the container number to keep it accurate.

Container numbers are seemingly a small part of the shipping industry but in reality it is the basis for tracking containers all over the world. If there were no container numbers, the container shipping industry would not be able to keep track of cargo. A freight forwarder can assist you when you are dealing with container numbers.