Traded Containers

Container grades

Traded containers are used for many different applications including, international transport, static storage or modified into offices, retail or housing. Traders grade the container to indicate the purpose to which they might be suited.

Standardised grading terminology enables the trader to evaluate the container by its descriptive grading code and, subject to the terms of the any contract between the parties, assess its suitability.

CTIA has developed a grading system that can be universally applied - CTIA Guidelines for Grading Traded Containers.

Containers are graded by the use of a three-part alphabetical code. Codes are applied to indicate:

A. Structural Condition

B. Exterior Condition

C. Interior Coding


The structure is assessed according to five grades:

A. Nearly new

B. Good

C. Cargo-Worthy

D. Wind & Watertight

E. Damaged

Exterior & Interior

The condition is assessed to 5 grades

A. Nearly new

B. Good

C. Medium

D. Fair

E. Damaged


AAA. Nearly new, on trip container. Structure CSC compliant, exterior and interior in “nearly new” condition

BBB. Structure CSC compliant, exterior and interior in good condition

BDC. Structure CSC compliant, exterior in fair condition, displaying up to 10% surface area corrosion, medium interior and doors

Containers of structural grades A, B, C are assessed by the depot inspector to be suitable for intermodal transport. The new owner should examine the container before use and validate the CSC safety approval plate (Convention for Safe Containers).

Structural Inspection

The acceptable container condition for international use containers is determined by the owner’s approved CSC Periodic Examination Scheme. The container will be examined, within the scope of the approved procedure, to industry recommended structural criteria and after, if the container is to be traded, a grading assessment will be applied.

Typical industry inspection guides:

CIC - Common Interchange Criteria: Administered by The Container Owners Association representing shipping lines and lessors.

IICL-6: International Container Lessors 6th edition. Administered by leasing companies and harmonized in 2016 with IICl-6.

UCIRC: The Unified Container Inspection & Repair Criteria, administered by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and primarily used by shipping lines for container interchange.

Cargo-worthy: The term is used when grading traded containers. Cargo-Worthy refers to a container intended for a single intermodal transport of general purpose cargo and assigned as a shipper owned container (SOC). Some containers might in practice, be suitable for more than one trip.

Wind & Water Tight: The term used when grading traded containers. This a term used for containers that are not necessarily in safe structural condition to transport cargo but remain wind and water tight i.e. when inspecting from the inside of the container there should be no light to indicate holes allowing moisture ingress.

To many users of containers for static purposes, the relatively small dimensional differences between industry damage criterion is unlikely to be of a major significance.

Often of greater importance to static users of containers is the acceptability of the general appearance of any damages and corrosion along with ease of door operation, floor condition and interior cleanliness.

These factors are covered by grading.

Cleanliness and general appearance

General appearance is subjective and its importance depends on the intended use. Often, the ease of opening the doors and the internal condition is a priority - more so than the finer details of the allowable depth of a damage. But dents and deformations do contribute to the overall appearance.

Containers might be structurally acceptable and cargo-worthy to the required structural criteria, but could be heavily scuffed, partly corroded and dented and therefore not necessarily of good appearance.          

CSC Safety Approval

Containers designed for intermodal sea journeys display a CSC safety approval plate.

CSC (Convention for Safe Containers) is a requirement within IMO (International Maritime Organisation) regulations. CSC might also be referenced in other National and International regulations relating to containers.

The CSC safety approval plate indicates that the container has been designed, tested and approved to the required standard and has undergone periodic examination to verify its on-going safe condition for transport at sea.

CSC requires that the container owner operates an approved procedure. This may be a PES (Periodic Examination Scheme) or ACEP (Approved Continuous Examination Programme)

The procedure should be approved (or prescribed) by the IMO Contracting Party i.e. the Governmental Administration of the State where the owning company is registered.

The CSC plate of 10 x 20cm is usually part of a larger plate where other regulations and data, such as approval for transport under customs seal plate, are consolidated into the one plate. Made of stainless steel, the consolidated plate is riveted to the rear door of the container by the manufacturer.

The aim of the CSC is to ensure that the containers are safe for transport. If the container is unsafe, damaged or modified and not suitable for transport, CSC approval is invalid and the container should be reinstated to an acceptable condition or the CSC plate should be removed.

CSC Examination

CSC examination is the responsibility of the container owner. In the case of a traded container, the new owner.

Cargo-Worthy containers are supplied with the CSC safety plate in place. The CSC safety plate displays the statutory information regarding Type Approval of the container and ratings such as mass, stacking and racking.

Any marks identifying the previous owner, including ACEP marks, should be removed. This is process referred to as neutralising.

The new owner should, prior to use of the container for transport, undertake a CSC periodic examination in accordance with the approved procedure and on successful completion display the next examination date (NED).

In the event that the owner does not operate an approved procedure, some States provide for an inspection body to undertake the examination. In practice, inspection bodies often make arrangements for CSC examinations at the bequest of the container owner.

Containers operating under CSC are required to be examined after 60 months from manufacture and at 30 month intervals thereafter.

The examination may be undertaken under two programmes approved by the Contracting Party i.e. the Administration where the owner is domiciled:

PES (Periodic examination scheme):Inspection of the container within the period that the examination is due

ACEP (Approved Continuous Examination Programme)

ACEP is usually more applicable to a company with a large container fleet. It allows containers to be examined at a time when the container happens to be in a depot during the period, rather than at 30 month periodic intervals.

PES requires an examination of the container andthemarking of the plate with the NED (next examination date).

Guidance on CSC 2014 is available from IMO publications Click here.

Owners should make contact with their Administration and seek guidance to the specific requirements that apply and the organisations entrusted by them to test, inspect and approve containers. This information is a provided by IMO CSC.1/Circ.150.

Containers being traded into secondary markets

In all cases the container should be maintained in a safe condition and fit for the purpose intended.

Container for inland static (non-transport) use

CSC is not a requirement for static use but national health and safety regulations in the country where the container is being used, apply.

National regulations also apply if the container is lifted or delivered to site. If for example the container displays original markings indicating a 30480kg rating, national regulations might require tests accordingly.

It is recommended to remove or obliterate any redundant mass ratings or the CSC safety approval since such marks might be misleading and conflict with national regulations.  

Container for inland transport use when not part of a journey at sea

Containers used for transport should be repaired to a suitable structural standard in accordance with national transport and health and safety regulations in the country where the container is being used.

CSC is not a requirement for inland only transport but national transport and health and safety regulations (in the country where the container is being used) might make reference to CSC.

Container intended for transport at sea

Containers used for transport should be repaired and examined to a CSC approved procedure and display a valid CSC safety plate including the next examination date.