When people think about storage containers, images of industrial vessels with steel boxes stacked on top of each other may come to mind. These containers, also known as intermodal, ocean, freight, or shipping containers, are made to transport goods long distances by sea and land. Containerization, as it is called, originated in the late 18th century in the mining regions of England, where coal was manually loaded for transport in box boats. From the first open-top wooden boxes to today’s stackable steel shipping containers, this mode of transportation has come a long way in design, construction, and efficiency. By the mid-1900s, shipping containers were made to withstand exposure to extreme weather and harsh conditions and started to play a significant role in international trade and commerce. They also became widely used to store materials and equipment at construction sites, ports, and warehouses. Most recently, they are repurposed as offices, homes, schools, shops, and disaster relief. With an estimated 20 million shipping containers in the world, they are everywhere. And the storage industry just keeps on growing.
Ocean containers, however, occupy a lot of space and are capital intensive, super heavy, and hard to move around. Businesses in the storage industry were looking for another option. They wanted containers that could be customized, simple to order, quick to install, and easy to move around and relocate (even when fully loaded). And as the demand for storage increased, storage container manufacturers were posed with an opportunity to develop containers with a new set of features and sizes. Over the years, storage container manufacturers have aimed to fill the growing need for a lightweight, movable, and cost-effective version of a shipping container—a storage solution suitable for today’s self-storage marketplace. Enter portable, relocatable, mobile, and movable (whatever you want to call them) storage containers. We are still talking about a steel box with walls, floors, doors, and roofs. But to compare ocean containers to today’s portable and relocatable storage solutions, it is key to look at their differences in size, construction, mobility, and purpose.
Meant for the transportation of goods in massive quantities by sea, rail, and road, ocean containers are quite large, with standard sizes of 20 feet, 40 feet, 45 feet, and sometimes even 48 and 53 feet. Today’s portable and relocatable storage containers, on the other hand, are often smaller and lighter duty, with sizes ranging from 5 feet, 8 feet, 10 feet, 12 feet, 16 feet, and 20 feet to name a few. These smaller size options offer more flexibility in terms of placement and access. They can also be subdivided into smaller units with removable partitions. They can be easily maneuvered and placed in tighter spaces, which can be important for businesses with land restrictions or properties with narrow driveways or limited access. Additionally, portable and relocatable storage containers can be easier to load and unload, reducing the time and labor required for transportation and storage.
Ocean containers and portable and relocatable storage containers are all designed to be sturdy and durable. Ocean containers, however, are much heavier than portable and relocatable storage containers (about 2,000 lbs. more per 20-foot container). Portable and relocatable storage containers are made of lighter materials to be more convenient and flexible than ocean containers. They are constructed using the highest-grade SPA-H and SPA-C steel, with a roof made from corrugated steel to protect against the elements and prevent water from pooling or leaking. Due to their seamless design, portable and relocatable storage solutions also offer protection from water, wind, dust, and rodents. Some manufacturers offer a removable pitch kit that bolts into place in minutes, creating a pitched roof to meet building requirements or customer preference. Some manufacturers apply an anti-condensation coating on the ceiling to reduce condensation caused by humidity and temperature swings. Another key feature of portable and relocatable storage containers is their roll-up or swing doors, which are compatible with smart, hands-free entry and locking systems.
Ocean containers do very well when transported on ocean vessels, railroads, and truck chassis. When placed on land, however, shipping containers require a flat, hard, concrete-type, level surface. Portable and relocatable storage containers can be transported on various vehicles, including trailers, trucks, trains, ships, and cranes, to name a few. With features such as wall vents, vertical e-track, and tie downs for safe transport of stored items, mobile storage containers are ready to move. One of the top features of portable and relocatable storage solutions is that they can be placed with little to no foundation or major site preparation. Plus, they are shipped flat-packed to reduce transportation costs and assembled fast with just a few dozen nuts, bolts, and standard tools. Once assembled, portable and relocatable storage containers are ready for moving and on-site storing. And most of the portable and relocatable storage containers can be easily relocated once assembled. They are all equipped with forklift pockets to make them easy to move around and stack, even when fully loaded.
Shipping containers are the standard method of transporting goods by sea or rail. They have also morphed into other widespread storage uses on land. Portable and relocatable storage containers are often branded with decals, telephone numbers, and websites, and can be used to transport goods on both long- and short-distance moves, either intrastate or interstate. Their durability, size, and mobility features make them convenient to place as a temporary on-site storage solution for restoration or remediation, businesses, and homeowners. And portable and relocatable storage solutions can be placed anywhere to create or add to an existing self-storage facility. They are designed to be easily accessible with ground-level or ADA access. This makes them easier to load and unload than shipping containers, which often require a strong person to open the cumbersome double-swing doors and a ramp or other equipment. One last important feature of portable and relocatable storage containers is the ability to fully customize them (colors, façade, swing or roll-up doors) to match existing structures at a self-storage facility.
There will always be a need for ocean containers, but there is also a growing need for portable and relocatable storage solutions with features and sizes that work in today’s marketplace. The storage industry has adapted and grown to meet evolving consumer demand. And storage container manufacturers have created new storage solutions in a variety of sizes that are durable enough to move from location to location, flexible enough to fit in and around a self-storage facility, and customizable to match a company’s existing brand and colors. Using portable and relocatable storage containers can be the most practical option for both self-storage and portable storage and moving facilities looking to expand their storage offering and grow their revenue.
Rod Bolls is the founder and CEO of Boxwell, the Boulder, Colo.-based B2B manufacturer of innovative storage solutions. Boxwell produces portable storage and relocatable self-storage containers at both domestic and international Boxwell facilities to offer a wide range of products, customization, quality control, and shortened lead times. Rod and his team raise the industry standard by continually exploring innovative technologies, services, and features. Work with a Boxwell representative to decide your ideal unit mix, custom colors, door conﬁgurations and more. Not long after you place your order, your mobile storage units are delivered, installed, and ready to rent. Boxwell believes that anything is possible and works for the success of their customers. Check out boxwell.co or call (303) 317-5850 for more information.