Direction of containers when loaded on a ship..

Direction of containers when loaded on a ship

A very interesting and seemingly unassuming question from Colin :-

Are containers loaded so that the doors all face the same direction (i.e. fore or aft) or is it random?

Colin, estimates put the annual cost of cargo crime worldwide at between US$30-50 billion.. Shipping lines, Terminal operators and vessel operators have to constantly watch out for theft, pilferage and crime at ports, terminals and transport depots..

If a container is correctly packed and the doors secured properly, access can be gained only by

  • Cutting up the container’s body
  • By breaking the seal of the container or
  • Removing the entire door

The presence of a seal (with the same number) on a container proves that its cargo has remained secure from the time it was packed until the time it has been discharged.. It is not an anti-theft device and a criminal can virtually open any seal or section of a container to gain access..

Why am I telling you this and how is it relevant to your question..??

container loading

When the containers are loaded from the stack onto the trucks in the port and moved to the ship for loading, they are loaded with the doors facing outwards as the details of the container including the seal number and the condition of the seal are recorded by most ports..

Depending on the loading plan of the ship and where that particular container is placed, the door of the container could be facing inwards or outwards.. But since the trucks would be travelling in a circular direction around the stack area, the containers will all arrive under hook with the doors facing outwards and the cranes will load it in the same direction, therefore the containers will be loaded on board the ship in the same direction..

If you look at most images of container ships, you will find images as above where you see the container doors are facing outwards..

But if you see below picture (click on it to enlarge), you can see some containers are loaded in either direction..


Reefer containers are generally stowed with the machinery facing outwards so that it can be monitored on board..

If anyone else has a better explanation or answer to this question, please do respond with valid reasons for the same.. Is there any other logic to above question..?? It would be very interesting to hear..

9 thoughts on “Direction of containers when loaded on a ship..

    • Hi Pablo, reefers are not always loaded on top (deck).. Reefers can be stowed on deck or inside cargo holds.. Whether they are stowed on deck or in the cargo hold, there must be sufficient ventilation to allow the heat generated by the condensers in the reefer containers to escape.. Otherwise there will be a heat build-up (if stowed in the cargo holds) and this might damage the reefer machinery.. It is for this reason of heat generation that the reefer containers should never be stored with the machinery facing each other..

      Wherever they are loaded, they should be stowed in such a way that there is always access for the crew to monitor the reefer machinery during the voyage.. Positioning of the reefers on board the ship will also depend on where the power plugs for the reefers are available..

      Trust above helps..

  1. That’s a perfect way to know whether your goods are safe or became a part of theft, if you didn’t find the container which is accessed by “Cutting up the container’s body” , “By breaking the seal of the container” or “Removing the entire door” than we should call the on-duty security officer to handle the situation else it will will turn up on you.

    • there are times when high value cargos are stored Door To Door and on higher tiers to avoid any chance of pilferage . in 20 foot bays ( 40 foot has two twenty slots) it is practically impossible to reach the door with door to door stowage .

  2. Good question. In general, the doors will be facing aft, unless it is a reefer container. Although the doors have seals and should be weatherproof, the possibility of driving rain or seas penetrating them is frequently on my mind. In the case of reefer containers, the machinery and control panels are on the opposite end from the door. In order to protect these and the crew servicing them, the doors face forward and the controls face aft.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.