Quiz: What does the three-letter code on a container represent?

Container Standardization: ISO 6346 is the international standard for shipping container identification. What does the three-letter code on a container represent?

  1. Country of Origin
  2. Container Owner/Operator
  3. Containers Internal Dimensions
  4. Trucking Company

Did you guess correctly? Yes, it’s the Owner/Operator Prefix, as shown below.

In addition to the Owner/Operator Prefix, there are many other pieces of information!

The identification of shipping containers follows the international standard ISO 6346, which ensures uniformity and clarity in container management and logistics. Each container number begins with a series of letters and numbers that provide specific information about the container’s owner and type.

  • The First Three Letters: The first three letters in the container number represent the owner code, which identifies the company that owns or operates the container. This code is registered with the Bureau International des Containers (BIC) to ensure it is unique to each owner.
  • The Fourth Letter: The fourth letter is the category identifier. For standard freight containers, this letter is ‘U’. Other category identifiers include ‘J’ for detachable container-related equipment, ‘Z’ for trailers and chassis, and ‘R’ for refrigerated containers.

Here are ten examples of owner codes and their corresponding companies:

              1. MAE – Maersk Line
              2. CMA – CMA CGM
              3. MSC – Mediterranean Shipping Company
              4. HLC – Hapag-Lloyd
              5. NYK – NYK Line
              6. COS – COSCO Shipping
              7. APL – American President Lines
              8. HMM – Hyundai Merchant Marine
              9. PON – P&O Nedlloyd
              10. OOO – Orient Overseas Container Line

Understanding these codes helps in identifying the ownership and type of containers in global shipping operations.

Perhaps the container number would also be a good street number for a home?
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