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ISO Tank Containers: Everything You Need to Know

By May 4, 2022December 29th, 2022No Comments

The tank container industry can be characterized as a niche industry. Even within the industry, but especially outside of it, the knowledge about tank containers is scarce. Our market is technical and specialized. As an organization within this industry, we love to share our knowledge about the ISO tank container! 

ISO tank containers are used to store and transport liquids and gases in a safe and secure manner. These containers come in a variety of different sizes and shapes, so it can be difficult to know which you specifically need for your product or application. In this blog post, we will provide an overview of ISO tank containers. Let’s get started! 

History of the tank container industry

Let’s start with a little background on the tank container industry, a short history lesson! 

Going all the way back in time, liquids were transported in leather bags or in wooden barrels. This was followed by barrels transported by rail and later containers that were designed for ships or in tank ships. Tank containers, close to how we know them now, were introduced in the 60s by a man named Bob Fossey. They were a revolution to the industry, as they made transportation of liquids a lot easier and faster. 


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What is an ISO tank container

A tank container is built according to ISO standards, which are standardization norms. This makes the tank container very efficient. ISO norms determine the measurements and dimensions of the tank container, making it fit for multiple ways of transport. An ISO tank container can be transported via road, rail, and water. An ISO tank container is 20 ft (6,06 m) long, 8 ft (2,44 m) wide and 8 or 8,6 ft (2,44-2,60 m) high. ISO norms only apply to the frame of the tank container. The barrel must fit within this frame but can differ in size and capacity. The industry, of course, tries to maximize this volume.  

A tank container can carry between 14.000 and 27.000 litres. Besides non-hazardous cargo and gasses, a tank container is also fit for the temporary storage of hazardous cargo. However, it is important to adjust the parts on the tank container. 

Loading and unloading goods from a tank container can be done in various ways, both from the top and from the bottom. Usually, one uses a hose and an installation to load or unload.   

Classification of tank containers happens according to the ISO 6346 norms. This code indicates both the measurements and the type of container. When a container carries hazardous cargo, an UN number and packing group are used to classify the hazardous substance.  

Sizes and capacities of an ISO tank container

When it comes to ISO tank containers, we talk about capacity rather than dimensions or size. Regular 20ft containers vary in capacity between 5.000 and 27.000 litres. These tanks are surrounded by a 20ft x 8ft x 8.6ft steel framework. This is the global standard size.

When using a swap body tank, which offers a higher volume than a 20ft ISO tank, capacity can go up to 35.000 litres. These swap body tanks are usually either 20ft or 23ft. Other sizes of ISO tank containers that exist are 40ft and 45ft containers, but these are rarer.

What goods can a tank container carry?

An ISO tank container can carry a variety of goods, including agricultural products, chemicals, foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, refrigerated goods, and waste products. Next to liquids, it is also possible to transport (liquified) gasses in a tank container.

Types of tank containers

If you’d think that all containers are the same, think again! There is variation in the types of tank containers that are used within the industry. We recognize five types of tank containers:

  • Swap body tank container – This type has a barrel that is larger than the frame 
  • Reefer tank container – Gives you the option to transport cooled cargo  
  • Food tank container – A standard tank container that can only carry foodstuff 
  • Gas tank container – The name says it all, this tank container is fit for transporting gasses 
  • Silo tank container – A silo tank container is fit for carrying powders and grains 

A tank container can have multiple compartments when a cargo cannot be transported in large quantities (multi-compartment tank container). This increases the efficiency. The coding of a tank container, including its cargo, is shown on the outside of the tank. Stickers and decals give you this information.  

What are the benefits of an ISO tank container?

There are many benefits to using an ISO tank container, including:  

  • Cost-effective shipping  
  • Increased security  
  • Safest way of transporting chemicals 
  • Reduced environmental impact 
  • Intermodal transport  

Now that you know more about ISO tank containers, it’s history and the type of goods it can carry, you can safely and equipped with the right knowledge ship your goods in a tank container. Be sure to also factor in the tare weight of the container when calculating your total shipping weight! 

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