What's a TEU container? Deep dive into its uses & capacity [2022] (2022)

If you’re new to shipping containers or simply trying to understand how TEU container shipping works, you’ve reached the right place.

In this blog, you’ll learn:

  • TEU container is the abbreviation for a Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit
  • For measuring cargo capacity of container ships and standardizing the process, we require a TEU container
  • All 20 ft containers that are 8ft wide and 8ft tall can be classified as TEUs
  • xChange can help you find your right TEU as per your need from over 2,500 locations and 1000+ vetted partners

A curious mind and a zillion google page searches can get a bit chaotic at times. If you’re new to the logistics world and willing to understand TEU container shipping clearly, this blog is your guide.

Let’s start simple and easy as we break down TEUs for you.

Table of Contents

What’s a TEU container?

We use a TEU container, also called a typical intermodal freight container, for transporting goods and materials by sea, road, and rail. A TEU has a capacity of 20ft (6.1 meters) and weighs around 8,000 pounds (3,629 kilograms).

It usually takes place via sea freight. In simple words, TEU containers are commonly used to ship consumer goods, electronics, clothing, and other merchandise through the water. Butif you’re still wondering how popular these containers are, here’s something that might help. TEUs play a key role in global trade and commerce. In 2019, over 17 million TEU containers were shipped around the world – signifying the surging demand in the market.

What's a TEU container? Deep dive into its uses & capacity [2022] (2)

History of TEU container shipping

If you’re expecting the story to be boring, we assure you it’s not!

TEU container shipping roots back to the era of standardization. In the former times, the one name that not only enriched the history but also laid the spine of container shipping today is Malcolm McLean. A trucking entrepreneur by profession, he realized in the 1900s how transporting cargo was a cumbersome process.

After pondering intensely upon the concern, it dawned upon him how there wasn’t an organized structure to this process. This inspired him to establish a better system. He came up with the idea of making shipping containers, leading to containerization. Containers like these could be transported onto both trucks and ships without having to unload and load the cargo every time the transportation mode changed.

This increased efficiency and lowered costs, which allowed McLean to become the father of containerization.

The history of shipping containers saw further development and standardization of the 20-foot units in 1968. and they later evolved into what we know today as TEUs, or Twenty Equivalent Units. Today, containerization is the norm for maritime transport, and McLean’s idea is still continuing to spark and shape the way goods are moved around the world.

But that’s just ‘his-story’. What about the current-day usage? – Let’s delve right into it.

What is TEU container shipping used for?

TEU container is a measurement of the containers derived from dimensions of 20ft standard shipping containers. They’re used to –

  • Determine the cargo capacity for container ships and terminals.
  • Transport:
    • heavy machinery
    • vehicles
    • building materials etc.

TEU container capacity of global vessels

A TEU container is very commonly used to measure shipping vessel sizes.

The categorization of vessels depends on their TEU capacity. For instance, giant players in the market own vessels as large as having a carrying capacity of over 14,000 TEU, while smaller feeder vessels can hold a capacity of 1,000 TEU containers or less.

Let us take you through a few examples to give you an idea about choosing vessels based on their capacity

Container shipping, nowadays, uses the largest and most common type of vessel called Post-Panamax vessels. These vessels were first built in 1979 and have a TEU capacity between 5,000 and 14,999 and can range in length from 250 to 299 meters (820 to 984 ft).

Speaking of vessels, some of the others which made a mark in the industry include Ultra Large Container Vessels (ULCVs) as well. ULCVs are as long as 300 meters (984ft) and have a TEU capacity of 10,000 or more.

Some of the other vessels apart from ULCVs include small feeders with up to 1,000 TEU capacity, feeders with 1,000 to 2,000 TEU capacity, Feedermax with 2,000 to 3,000 TEU capacity, Panamax vessels with 3,000 to 5,000 TEU capacity, etc.

Seeking a TEU container to suit your needs, find one right here without any added hassle!

TEU container and FEU container: What’s the difference?

What's a TEU container? Deep dive into its uses & capacity [2022] (3)

A TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) is the standard size of a shipping container. It is 20ft long, 8ft wide, and 8ft tall. An FEU (Forty-foot Equivalent Unit) is twice the size of a TEU. It’s 40ft long, 8ft wide, and 8ft tall. TEU containers are used to refer to containers with twenty-foot equivalent units while FEU stands for forty-foot equivalent units.

The two terms describe the size of shipping container and are mainly defined as standardized measures for volume shipped pertinently speaking if you send out 2 20′ TEUs and 1 40′, then your shipment would be considered 3FEUS as it contains more than one type or class (i.e., cargo).

8 types of TEU containers

20ft Dry Container (DC)

20ft DC is a standard container used to transport dry cargo including pallets, boxes, barrels, sacks, etc.

20ft Flat-rack container

The sides of a flat-rack container can be folded outwards to create a flat rack. and it’s mainly used for transporting pipes, machinery or buses.

20ft Reefer container

Refrigerated containers are commonly known as reefers and are used to transport dairies, veggies, and other temperature-sensitive goods.

20ft Open top container

An open top container doesn’t have a roof but instead a tarpaulin sheet. It’s used to transport cables, raw material and other bulky cargo.

20ft Hard top container

Hard top containers have a hard detachable steel roof and are used to carry construction goods, cement, automotive and other specific goods.

20ft Side door container

A 20ft side door container has extra sides on the longer side of the unit. They’re used to load or unload cargo easily or transport oversized goods.

20ft Pallet wide container

Pallet-wide containers are built specifically to carry wooden Euro pallets and can fit up to 11 Euro pallets in a 20ft size.

20ft Double door container

Double door containers have swinging double doors that open outside and are used to carry bulk cargo like motorbikes, cars etc.

Book your TEU container on xChange

Looking for the perfect container to transport your cargo? xChange is the name to reach out for.

Container xChange is a neutral container marketplace, more like a virtual matchmaker for containers and container-logistics needs.

With 1,000+ members, xChange offers a marketplace where you can connect with the vetted players in the industry using Maersk and COSCO shipping amongst other renowned names.

Having over 10,000+ transactions in a month, xChange is one of the leading platforms enabling you to lease, buy, or sell containers in 2,500+ locations seamlessly. All you need is to express your requirement and get offers in one dashboard. Select the one that suits you the best and negotiate to sign the deal. This further smoothens the process of buying or leasing a container on xChange is as easy as going to the platform, searching your preferred location and exploring profiles you can connect and negotiate with before closing the deal.

If you’re looking for an array of services or finding a specific concern to seek help with, you can schedule a call with our support team here –

What do you mean by a TEU container?

A TEU container is a typical intermodal freight container used for transporting goods and materials by sea, road, and rail.

Does a 40ft container have 2 TEUs?

Yes, a 40ft container is twice the size of one TEU.

20 containers consist of how many TEU?

Calculations show that twenty 20ft standardized containers consist of 20 TEUs. Whereas, 20 40ft containers consist of 80 TEUs.

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What's a TEU container? Deep dive into its uses & capacity [2022] (11)

Article Name

What's a TEU container? Understanding its uses, capacity and importance [2022]


Want to know what TEU means? This blog helps you understand all about TEU, its meaning, use, and how it’s different from FEU.


Vedika Kaushik

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