ISO 6346

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BIC code on the end of a shipping container
ISO-code and dimension/load table at several newly washed containers

ISO 6346 is an international standard covering the coding, identification and marking of intermodal (shipping) containers used within containerized intermodal freight transport. The standard establishes a visual identification system for every container that includes a unique serial number (with check digit), the owner, a country code, a size, type and equipment category as well as any operational marks. The standard is managed by the International Container Bureau (BIC).

Identification System[edit]

Example of an ISO 6346 conform container number:

Example of an ISO 6346 conform container number

Owner Code[edit]

The owner code consists of three capital letters of the Latin alphabet to indicate the owner or principal operator of the container. Such code needs to be registered at the Bureau International des Conteneurs in Paris to ensure uniqueness worldwide.

Equipment Category Identifier[edit]

The equipment category identifier consists of one of the following Four capital letters of the Latin alphabet:

  • U for all freight containers
  • J for detachable freight container-related equipment
  • Z for trailers and chassis
  • R for reefer containers (cooling containers, mostly with their own refrigeration system)

Serial Number[edit]

The serial number consists of 6 numeric digits, assigned by the owner or operator, uniquely identifying the container within that owner/operator's fleet.

Check Digit[edit]

The check digit consists of one numeric digit providing a means of validating the recording and transmission accuracies of the owner code and serial number.

Calculation Step 1[edit]

An equivalent numerical value is assigned to each letter of the alphabet, beginning with 10 for the letter A (11 and multiples thereof are omitted):

A B C D E F G H I J K L M
10 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 23 24
N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 34 35 36 37 38

The individual digits of the serial number keep their numeric value.

Calculation Step 2[edit]

Each of the numbers calculated in step 1 is multiplied by 2position, where position is the exponent to base 2. Position starts at 0, from left to right.

The following table shows the multiplication factors:

1. nbr 2. nbr 3. nbr 4. nbr 5. nbr 6. nbr 7. nbr 8. nbr 9. nbr 10. nbr
20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29
1 2 4 8 16 32 64 128 256 512

Calculation Step 3[edit]

a) Sum up all results of step 2
b) Divide them by 11
c) Erase all decimal digits of the division (i. e. make the result an integer value)
d) Multiply the integer value by 11
e) Subtract result of d) from result of a): This is the check digit!

If the final difference is 10, then the check digit becomes 0. To ensure that this does not happen, the standard recommends that serial numbers should not be used which produce a final difference of 10, however there are containers in the market which do not follow this recommendation, so handling this case has to be included if a check digit calculator is programmed.

Notice that step b) to e) is a calculation of the remainder found after division of a) by 11. Most programming languages have a modulo operator for this. Attention should be paid on how it is working in the language chosen; i. e. if it is giving back the decimal rest or the integer rest in order to get proper results. 11 is used as divisor because a container number has 11 letters and digits in total. In step 1 the numbers 11, 22 and 33 are left out as they are multiples of the divisor.

Example[edit]

C S Q U 3 0 5 4 3 8 Calc.
13 30 28 32 3 0 5 4 3 8
x x x x x x x x x x
1 2 4 8 16 32 64 128 256 512
= = = = = = = = = =
13 60 112 256 48 0 320 512 768 4096 6185 [a)]
b) Division by 11: 562.272...
c) Erase decimal digits: 562
d) Multiply by 11: 6182
a) minus d) = Check Digit: 3

Code Sample 1[edit]

Below is a code Snippet implementing the above algorithm in MATLAB validating string "cid":

%% Step 1 
char2num = [10 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 34 35 36 37 38]; 
msk = logical([1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0]);  % mask separating digits from numbers
cid( msk) = char2num(cid( msk)-'A'+1);   % letters to numbers conversion
cid(~msk) =          cid(~msk)-'1'+1;    % digit characters to numbers conversion
vec = double(cid);
%% Step 2
num  = sum(vec(1:10).* 2.^(0:9));
%% Step 3
check_digit = mod(mod(num,11),10);
valid = (check_digit==vec(11));

Code Sample 2[edit]

Below is the Visual Basic code to create a custom "ISO6346Check" function in Microsoft Excel that returns the correct check digit:

Function ISO6346Check(k As String) ' Calculates the ISO Shipping Container Check Digit
Dim i%, s&
Application.Volatile
For i = 1 To 10
s = s + IIf(i < 5, Fix(11 * (Asc(Mid(k, i)) - 56) / 10) + 1, Asc(Mid(k, i)) - 48) * 2 ^ (i - 1)
Next i
ISO6346Check = (s - Fix(s / 11) * 11) Mod 10
End Function

Practical Problems[edit]

In day-to-day business it happens that containers do appear which do not follow the ISO 6346 identification at all, however they are fully CSC safety approved containers. Usually these are "shippers owned" containers, which means that they are not owned by the carrier but supplied by the cargo owners (shippers). They may have no registered owner code and no category identifier and have no check digit. It is advisable to follow ISO 6346 as the absence of a compliant identification code causes problems for both carriers and container terminals to correctly identify the equipment and properly deliver the cargo, because computer systems require ISO 6346 conformant naming and as such missing prefixes are invented. For example YYYY at the carrier and XXXX at the terminal causes the equipment to mismatch.

Size and Type Codes[edit]

The codes are compiled of the following elements:

  • First character, representing the length (coded)
  • Second character, representing the width and height (coded)
  • Third and fourth character indicating the type of the container

The following is an overview of the most common codes:

ISO Type Group ISO Size Type
Code Description Code Description
20GP GENERAL PURPOSE CONT. 20G0 GENERAL PURPOSE CONT.
20G1 GENERAL PURPOSE CONT.
20HR ISOLADO CONTAINE REEFER 20H0 INSULATED CONTAINER
20PF FLAT (FIXED ENDS) 20P1 FLAT (FIXED ENDS)
20TD TANK CONTAINER 20T3 TANK CONTAINER
20T4 TANK CONTAINER
20T5 TANK CONTAINER
20T6 TANK CONTAINER
20TG TANK CONTAINER 20T7 TANK CONTAINER
20T8 TANK CONTAINER
20TN TANK CONTAINER 20T0 TANK CONTAINER
20T1 TANK CONTAINER
20T2 TANK CONTAINER
22BU BULK CONTAINER 22B0 BULK CONTAINER
22GP GENERAL PURPOSE CONT. 22G0 GENERAL PURPOSE CONT.
22G1 GENERAL PURPOSE CONT.
22HR INSULATED CONTAINER 22H0 INSULATED CONTAINER
22PC FLAT (COLLAPSIBLE) 22P3 FLAT (COLLAPSIBLE)
22P8 FLAT (COLL.FLUSH FOLDING)
22P9 FLAT (COLLAPSIBLE)
22PF FLAT (FIXED ENDS) 22P1 FLAT (FIXED ENDS)
22P7 FLAT (GENSET CARRIER)
22RC REEFER CONT.(NO FOOD) 22R9 REEFER CONT.(NO FOOD)
22RS BUILT-IN GEN. F. POWER SPLY OF REEF 22R7 BUILT-IN GEN. F. POWER SPLY OF REEF
22RT REEFER CONTAINER 22R1 REEFER CONTAINER
22SN NAMED CARGO CONTAINER 22S1 NAMED CARGO CONTAINER
22TD TANK CONTAINER 22T3 TANK CONTAINER
22T4 TANK CONTAINER
22T5 TANK CONTAINER
22T6 TANK CONTAINER
22TG TANK CONTAINER 22T7 TANK CONTAINER
22T8 TANK CONTAINER
22TN TANK CONTAINER 22T0 TANK CONTAINER
22T1 TANK CONTAINER
22T2 TANK CONTAINER
22UP HARDTOP CONTAINER 22U6 HARDTOP CONTAINER
22UT OPEN TOP CONTAINER 22U1 OPEN TOP CONTAINER
22VH VENTILATED CONTAINER 22V0 VENTILATED CONTAINER
22V2 VENTILATED CONTAINER
22V3 VENTILATED CONTAINER
25GP GP-CONTAINER OVER-HEIGHT 25G0 GP-CONTAINER OVER-HEIGHT
26GP GP-CONTAINER OVER-HEIGHT 26G0 GP-CONTAINER OVER-HEIGHT
26HR INSULATED CONTAINER 26H0 INSULATED CONTAINER
28TG TANK FOR GAS 28T8 TANK FOR GAS
28UT OPEN TOP (HALF HEIGHT) 28U1 OPEN TOP (HALF HEIGHT)
28VH VE-HALF-HEIGHT =1448 MM HEIGHT 28V0 VE-HALF-HEIGHT =1448 MM HEIGHT
29PL PLATFORM 29P0 PLATFORM
2EGP GEN. PURP. WITHOUT VENT WIDTH 2.5M 2EG0 HIGH CUBE CONT. (WIDTH 2.5M)
42GP GENERAL PURPOSE CONT. 42G0 GENERAL PURPOSE CONT.
42G1 GENERAL PURPOSE CONT.
42HR INSULATED CONTAINER 42H0 INSULATED CONTAINER
42PC FLAT (COLLAPSIBLE) 42P3 FLAT (COLLAPSIBLE)
42P8 FLAT (COLL.FLUSH FOLDING)
42P9 FLAT (COLLAPSIBLE)
42PF FLAT (FIXED ENDS) 42P1 FLAT (FIXED ENDS)
42PS FLAT (SPACE SAVER) 42P6 FLAT SPACE SAVER
42RC REEFER CONT.(NO FOOD) 42R9 REEFER CONT.(NO FOOD)
42RS REEFER CONT.(DIESEL GEN.) 42R3 REEFER CONT.(DIESEL GEN.)
42RT REEFER CONTAINER 42R1 REEFER CONTAINER
42SN NAMED CARGO CONTAINER 42S1 NAMED CARGO CONTAINER
42TD TANK CONTAINER 42T5 TANK CONTAINER
42T6 TANK CONTAINER
42TG TANK CONTAINER 42T8 TANK CONTAINER
42TN TANK CONTAINER 42T2 TANK CONTAINER
42UP HARDTOP CONTAINER 42U6 HARDTOP CONTAINER
42UT OPEN TOP CONTAINER 42U1 OPEN TOP CONTAINER
45BK BULK CONTAINER 45B3 BULK CONTAINER
45GP HIGH CUBE CONT. 45G0 HIGH CUBE CONT.
45G1 HIGH CUBE CONT.
45PC FLAT (COLLAPSIBLE) 45P3 FLAT (COLLAPSIBLE)
45P8 FLAT (COLL.FLUSH FOLDING)
45RC REEFER CONT.(NO FOOD) 45R9 REEFER CONT.(NO FOOD)
45RT REEFER HIGHCUBE CONTAINER 45R1 REEFER HIGHCUBE CONTAINER
45UT OPEN TOP CONTAINER 45U1 OPEN TOP CONTAINER
45UP HIGH CUBE HARDTOP CONT. 45U6 HIGH CUBE HARDTOP CONT.
46HR INSULATED CONTAINER 46H0 INSULATED CONTAINER
48TG TANK FOR GAS 48T8 TANK FOR GAS
49PL PLATFORM 49P0 PLATFORM
4CGP GP CONTAINER 4CG0 GP CONTAINER (WIDTH 2.5 M)
L0GP HIGH CUBE CONT. L0G1 HIGH CUBE CONT.
L2GP HIGH CUBE CONT. L2G1 HIGH CUBE CONT.
L5GP HIGH CUBE CONT. L5G1 HIGH CUBE CONT.

Use the below to calculate Size/Type of a less commonly used ISO 6346 containers:

ISO Length Codes Second size code character
Code Container length Code Container height Width
1 10′ 0 8′ 8′
2 20′ 2 8′6″
3 30′ 4 9′
4 40′ 5 9′6″
B 24′ 6 > 9′6″
C 24′6″ 8 4′3″
G 41′ 9 <= 4′
H 43′ C 8′6″ 2348mm < x <= 2500mm
L 45′ D 9′
M 48′ E 9′6″
N 49′ F > 9′6″
ISO Type Codes
Code Description
G0 General - Openings at one or both ends
G1 General - Passive vents at upper part of cargo space
G2 General - Openings at one or both ends + full openings on one or both sides
G3 General - Openings at one or both ends + partial openings on one or both sides
V0 Fantainer - Non-mechanical, vents at lower and upper parts of cargo space
V2 Fantainer - Mechanical ventilation system located internally
V4 Fantainer - Mechanical ventilation system located externally
R0 Integral Reefer - Mechanically refrigerated
R1 Integral Reefer - Mechanically refrigerated and heated
R2 Integral Reefer - Self-powered mechanically refrigerated
R3 Integral Reefer - Self-powered mechanically refrigerated and heated
H0 Refrigerated or heated with removable equipment located externally; heat transfer coefficient K=0.4W/M2.K
H1 Refrigerated or heated with removable equipment located internally
H2 Refrigerated or heated with removable equipment located externally; heat transfer coefficient K=0.7W/M2.K
H5 Insulated - Heat transfer coefficient K=0.4W/M2.K
H6 Insulated - Heat transfer coefficient K=0.7W/M2.K
U0 Open Top - Openings at one or both ends
U1 Open Top - Idem + removable top members in end frames
U2 Open Top - Openings at one or both ends + openings at one or both sides
U3 Open Top - Idem + removable top members in end frames
U4 Open Top - Openings at one or both ends + partial on one and full at other side
U5 Open Top - Complete, fixed side and end walls ( no doors )
T0 Tank - Non dangerous liquids, minimum pressure 0.45 bar
T1 Tank - Non dangerous liquids, minimum pressure 1.50 bar
T2 Tank - Non dangerous liquids, minimum pressure 2.65 bar
T3 Tank - Dangerous liquids, minimum pressure 1.50 bar
T4 Tank - Dangerous liquids, minimum pressure 2.65 bar
T5 Tank - Dangerous liquids, minimum pressure 4.00 bar
T6 Tank - Dangerous liquids, minimum pressure 6.00 bar
T7 Tank - Gases, minimum pressure 9.10 bar
T8 Tank - Gases, minimum pressure 22.00 bar
T9 Tank - Gases, minimum pressure to be decided
B0 Bulk - Closed
B1 Bulk - Airtight
B3 Bulk - Horizontal discharge, test pressure 1.50 bar
B4 Bulk - Horizontal discharge, test pressure 2.65 bar
B5 Bulk - Tipping discharge, test pressure 1.50 bar
B6 Bulk - Tipping discharge, test pressure 2.65 bar
P0 Flat or Bolter - Plain platform
P1 Flat or Bolter - Two complete and fixed ends
P2 Flat or Bolter - Fixed posts, either free-standing or with removable top member
P3 Flat or Bolter - Folding complete end structure
P4 Flat or Bolter - Folding posts, either free-standing or with removable top member
P5 Flat or Bolter - Open top, open ends (skeletal)
S0 Livestock carrier
S1 Automobile carrier
S2 Live fish carrier

Country Code (Optional)[edit]

The country code consists of two capital letters of the Latin alphabet as described in ISO 3166. It indicates the country where the code is registered not the nationality of the owner or operator of the container. The letters of the code shall not be less than 100 mm high.

Mandatory Operational Marks[edit]

Operational marks are intended solely to convey information requested for the movement of containers or give visual warnings. They relate to

  • the weight of containers
  • a symbol to denote air-surface container
  • a sign warning of overhead electrical danger
  • height marks for containers higher than 2.6 m (8 ft 6 in)

References[edit]

See also[edit]

The following is a list of further freight container related ISO specifications, where not all have an article assigned yet (you can help improve Wikipedia and start one):

  • ISO 668 - Freight containers - Classification, dimensions and ratings
  • ISO 830 - Freight containers - Terminology
  • ISO 1161 - Freight containers - Corner fittings - Specification
  • ISO 1496 - Freight containers - Specification and testing
  • ISO 2308 - Hooks for lifting freight containers of up to 30 tons capacity - Basic requirements
  • ISO 3874 - Freight containers - Handling and securing
  • ISO 8323 - Freight containers - Air/surface (intermodal) general purpose containers - Specification and tests
  • ISO 9669 - Freight containers - Interface connections for tank containers
  • ISO 9711 - Freight containers - Information related to containers on board vessels
  • ISO 9897 - Container equipment data exchange (CEDEX)
  • ISO 10368 - Freight thermal containers - Remote condition monitoring
  • ISO 10374 - Freight containers - Automatic identification

External links[edit]