What Are TEU and FEU in Shipping Containers?

Understanding TEU and FEU in Shipping Containers

TEU and FEU in shipping containers describe the capacity of containerships and container terminals to hold shipping containers of sizes 20ft and 40ft. Shippers across the supply chain widely use these standard shipping container sizes to transport goods based on their cargo requirements. By knowing the TEU and FEU in shipping containers, port authorities and operators can draft container stowage plans, efficiently load and unload shipping containers, and enhance warehousing and transportation processes. Let us learn more about TEU and FEU in shipping containers and their use in maritime shipping. 

Importance of container sizes 

International transportation of goods is facilitated by loading the cargo into shipping containers of various types and sizes depending on the cargo need. The goods meant for intermodal transportation can be in various states, such as solid, liquid, and gas. At times, these goods are irregularly shaped or differ in volume. Since every cargo is unique, a different type of container of a suitable size is required to secure the goods and prepare them for long-distance transit. Exporters may buy or lease shipping containers based on the purpose of the cargo. While some containers are intended for transporting goods, others are leased or bought for storing cargo or converting the containers for commercial purposes. The type and size of the shipping container depends on the purpose of use, cargo requirements and nature of shipping. 

Shipping container sizes vary between standard and high cube sizes of 20ft, 40ft, 45ft, and 53 ft. These container sizes are available for all types of shipping containers, including reefer, double-door, flat rack, tank, and open-top containers. The most commonly used container sizes of 20ft and 40ft can be switched between various modes of transport, such as ships, trucks, and trains. Shippers must choose the correct container sizes. 

Benefits of choosing the right shipping container size 

The advantages of choosing the right shipping container size are as follows- 

  1. Space utilisation – By selecting the appropriate container sizes, exporters can ensure cargo safety and better space utilisation of the containers. It is essential to avoid container overstuffing or leaving lots of empty spaces inside the container. The right container size ensures maximum utilisation of container space and shipping a good amount of cargo in one trip. 
  2. Cost savings – Exporters can minimise investments by buying or leasing shipping containers in appropriate sizes, avoiding container space waste. LCL shipments are often sent for cargo consolidation to avoid money waste. When the entire volume of the container is utilised correctly, it leads to cost-effective shipping. 

Container loading and unloading – It is easier to handle cargo loading and unloading in containers of suitable sizes. Cargo stuffing techniques can be effectively utilised to streamline containerisation. Large containers will lead to many empty spaces, increasing workers’ work to stuff in dunnage and other cargo packing materials. 

  1. Intermodal transportation – Loading goods into shipping containers of appropriate size helps maintain container stability. It also helps efficient cargo stacking and prevents containers from falling off during transit. Thus, it prevents container damage and ensures safer transportation of goods. 
  2. Warehousing – Containers are often temporarily stored in warehouses, container terminals, or container depots with cargo stuffed inside. Freight containers of appropriate sizes help utilise warehouse space and can be stacked and stored until needed. 

What is a TEU? 

A TEU is also commonly referred to as a twenty-foot equivalent unit, a standard container size widely used in the intermodal transportation of goods. TEU is used to measure the volume of twenty-foot containers in units. Measuring the volume of 20ft containers helps define the capacity of container ships and container terminals to store cargo. The term TEU was initially used to describe 20ft shipping containers. However, over the years, it has reformed itself to be used as a standard unit for measuring the cargo capacity in logistics. As per its size, TEU is used for transporting smaller shipments that do not require much space. Dry cargo that requires storage in pallets or boxes, such as electrical equipment or clothing, can be packed into 20ft containers. In some instances, cargo such as grains are directly loaded into containers. TEU can hold around 9 to 11 pallets, and large containerships have more than 18,000 TEU transport capacity. The external length, width, and height of a 20ft container stand at 20ft x 8ft x 8ft. 

One 20ft container = 1 TEU 

Internal length = 19.4ft 

Internal width = 7.8ft 

Internal height = 7.9ft 

Volume = 28 cubic metres 

What is FEU in shipping? 

40ft containers are another standard container size commonly used throughout the shipping industry. A FEU is a forty-foot equivalent unit that measures the volume of goods loaded onto containerships. An FEU is used for 40ft shipping containers to transport heavier or bulkier goods. A 40-foot cargo container can hold around 20 to 24 pallets to store goods, depending on whether it is a standard size or Euro pallet. Containerships designated to load 40ft containers use FEU to measure the capacity of cargo that can be transported. The dimensions of a 40ft container are as follows. 

Length = 40ft 

Width = 8ft 

Height = 8ft 

Volume = 58 cubic metre 

2 TEU = 1 FEU 

Use of TEU and FEU in shipping containers 

The use of TEU and FEU at shipping ports and container terminals are as follows- 

  1. Arranging for resources – By knowing the TEU and FEU measurement of the inbound containers using the TEU or FEU system, port authorities and operators can optimise the logistics process by ensuring the availability of required equipment, machines, and port personnel for efficient cargo handling. 
  2. Container stowageStowage planning on ships is done before initiating intermodal transportation. Knowing the TEU or FEU, containers can be efficiently placed into stacks to maximise the space in the transport mode. 
  3. Customs clearances – Standard container sizes make it easier for shippers or logistics service providers to make inspections and documentation more accessible. TEU and FEU are standard measurements that allow more accessible customs clearances. 

Using TEU and FEU, shipping companies can easily calculate the cargo volume and find an appropriate ship with a suitable vessel capacity to load the required number of containers onboard. The TEU and FEU measurements help optimise and streamline various logistics processes. 

What is the difference between TEU and FEU in shipping containers? 

The primary difference between TEU and FEU in shipping containers are- 

  1. Measuring capacity – While a TEU is a commonly used standard unit of measurement that measures the capacity of a standard 20ft shipping container, a FEU is a unit of measurement based on the capacity of a standard 40ft shipping container. 
  2. Dimensions – A TEU container measures 20ft long, while a FEU container is 40ft long. 
  3. Use – TEU is widely used to measure container capacity. It is a good indicator of the size of a containership, and the TEU capacity is used for calculating shipping rates. FEU deals with larger containers and describes the cargo capacity of ships and container terminals. 
  4. Type of cargo– Generalised cargo that can fit into smaller TEU containers. Heavier and bulkier items like automobiles are stowed into FEU containers. 

Shippers must consider a few differences between TEU and FEU in shipping containers before buying or leasing. 

LOTUS Containers is a shipping container service provider that sells and leases shipping containers in 20ft and 40ft sizes. We have a variety of containers, from reefer containers and tank containers to dry bulk containers.

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