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Conex Box or Shipping Container: Is There a Difference?



Kleenex or tissue. Soda or pop. Tennis shoes or sneakers. Conex box or shipping container.

Sometimes, we use different words to refer to the same thing. Over time, the words become interchangeable and are universally understood no matter whom we are speaking to. Often, the only difference in word choice is geographical or historical.

For example, "soda" is the preferred term in the Northeast, most of Florida, California and pockets of the Midwest around Milwaukee and St. Paul. "Pop" is what people say in the majority of the Midwest, and "coke," regardless of the flavor, is what people call it in the South.

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Whether you call them “shipping containers,” “storage containers,” “Conex” (or Connex) boxes,” or “ISO boxes,” they are all the same thing – large metal, weather-resistant containers used to store or ship things. They are also all controlled by strict manufacturing guidelines to ensure they are universally interchangeable.

Conex Boxes: The History Behind Them

  • The military saw the need to develop the early shipping containers in 1952.  They saw the efficiencies of putting cargo in containers and not shipping items loose on ships.  
  • The commercial shipping industry took note in the mid-1960s and realized the need for standardization in container sizes and build specifications.
  • The International Shipping Organization (ISO) was established to set universal guidelines that govern the manufacturing guidelines, sizes and capacity requirements of every shipping container made in the world. 
  • CONEX is short for “Container for export” that the ISO coined. Today, the word “Conex” is understood as a shipping term to refer to the way goods are shipped overseas.
  • CONEX containers are one of the most iconic developments in the history of transportation and logistics and they revolutionized the shipping industry.

The use of standardized steel and aluminum shipping containers actually began during the late 40s and early 50s, when commercial shipping operators and the U.S. military started developing shipping units. During World War II, the U.S. Army began experiments with containers to ship supplies to the front lines because cargo was being delayed at ports due to the time required by break bulk loading and offloading of ships, and supplies being stolen or damaged during transport.

“Shipping Containers” and “Storage Containers”


A shipping container is a standard-sized box with strength suitable to withstand shipment, storage and handling while transporting goods from one place to another. Most shipping containers are made from Corten steel, a high-quality, corrugated steel that is susceptible to  surface rust only, making it the ideal material to survive extreme weather.

In the shipping trade, the terms “container” and “shipping container” and “Conex” are understood to mean the same thing:

A large, reusable steel box designed to protect goods while they are shipped around the world.

These containers can withstand harsh environments and make it possible to ship materials using various modes of transportation – ship, rail or truck – without needing to unload the cargo each time the mode of transportation changes.

Another common way to refer to shipping containers is “storage containers,” which makes sense since they in fact “store” goods during transport.

In the container industry, shipping containers are referred to as ISO containers or Intermodal Containers, which are large standardized shipping containers designed and built for intermodal freight transport.

Shipping containers must conform to ISO (International Organization for Standardization) specifications. These standards ensure consistent loading, transporting and unloading of goods in ports around the world. The ISO standardization also mandates that containers meet the size and durability requirements to allow them to stack safely and uniformly on ships and trains. ISO containers are inspected every 30 months by a certified inspector to ensure the container is within specifications.

Conex Box and Shipping Containers: Dimensions, Usage and Conditions40-ft-Conex-container-dimensions

Container One’s Conex and shipping containers come in 10-ft, 20-ft, 40-ft and 53-ft sizes, and are available in a variety of conditions to meet the specific needs of the customer. Both the 40-foot Conex box and the same size shipping container weigh 8,500 pounds and have interior measurements of 39 feet, 3/8 inches long, 7 feet, 8 1/8 inches wide and 7 feet, 9 5/8 inches high. The door openings of both containers are 7 feet, 8 ½ inches wide and 7 feet, 5 ¾ inches high.

Conex Boxes and Shipping Containers are Used for:

  • Construction storage
  • Personal storage
  • Commercial building projects
  • Man caves/she-sheds (common use for 40-foot size)
  • Residential units, like custom homes or cabins (common use for 40-foot size)
  • Commercial units, like small business offices (common use for 40-foot size)

On One Condition…

Whether you call them Conex boxes or shipping containers, they are sold in a variety of conditions, and it’s important to know what those conditions are and if your intended use of the container aligns with the appropriate condition. These conditions include:

  • New/1Trip: These are new containers that have only been loaded one time from the manufacturer. These are the highest condition of containers offered.
  • Wind and Water Tight (WWT): These units that are no longer certifiable to ship cargo on trains and ships. These are ideal for consumers who need a container to store personal items or anything that needs protected from harsh conditions.
  • Cargo Worthy (CW): These containers are guaranteed to pass re-certification to be loaded back on a ship or train. These can be packed with cargo and shipped across the world.
  • AS IS: These used units will most likely have holes, floor damage and other fixable repairs, but are able to be used for storage.

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* Delivery is not included with the 10 ft and 53 ft container prices

So, when you need to protect, store or ship something and you need a steel box, call it what you will. We'll know what you mean. Because the name - whether it's a shipping container or Conex – is just as flexible as the potential uses for them. Whether building a shipping container home, or storing farming equipment, the uses are endless.


Menon, Ajay, et al. CONEX Containers – History, Dimensions, Features And Uses. 21 Aug. 2020,