Shipping containers: do they float or sink?

Hello I believe we were discussing shipping containers?

What happens if a shipping container falls a ship? Does it float or sink?

What factors determine that, is it the nature of the cargo for example?

Lets say there are 3 shipping containers, the 1st is filled with ladies bras and panties, the 2nd is filled with fluffy childrens toys, the 3rd is empty, which ones will float and which ones will sink?

And why or why not?

9 Answers

  • 6 months ago
    Favorite Answer

    there are many many different "shipping containers". I think you mean Intermodal containers, which come in different standard sizes.

    picking the 40 foot one, that is 40x8x8.5 ft

    weight 8,380 lb

    volume is 2720 ft³

    max gross weight 66,139 lb or 33 tons

    weight of that volume of water is 2720 ft³ x 62.1 lb/ft³ = 169000 lb

    so the weight of the contents, if it barely floats, is 169000 – 8,380 = 161000 lb, 80 tons

    given that the specified max gross weight is 33 tons, they ALL WILL FLOAT... until water seeps in, and then they sink. Unless the contents are something that traps air, such as ping-pong balls. Or something that has low enough density to offset the weight of the container, such as wood. or styrofoam cups.

    density of fresh water at 20C = 0.998 g/cm³

    = 998 kg/m³ = 8.33 lb/gal = 62.1 lb/ft³

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  • M.
    Lv 7
    6 months ago

    I never saw a watertight container.

    So unless it's full of styrofoam, it will sink.

  • 6 months ago

    in all probability,

    all three will float - if they are water tight.

  • 6 months ago


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  • 6 months ago

    Depends on a number of factors primarily dependent on the nature of the contents and the resultant specific gravity of the container wrt sea-water once immersed and flooded

    Semi-submerged containers represent a serious collision hazard for other ships being just about invisible

  • 6 months ago

    None are totally water tight and eventually take on water.

    Depends on the gross weight and volume(mass) to determine buoyancy.

    If the same volume of water weighs less than the container, it is like a rock and sinks.

    Your case,,all 3 would float for a while, Likely the underwear would be the heaviest and not as much above water.

    The empty container, like an empty boat.

  • R K
    Lv 7
    6 months ago

    none of them will float. they aren't water tight.

  • 6 months ago

    You give contents of containers, but not how they are wrapped for shipping. No guess could be accurate.

  • 6 months ago

    Unless they are air tight, they will all sink, some slower than others. What this depends on is the amount of water being taken in at the bottom and the amount of air being pushed out the top. though many containers are weather proof, most do not float.

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