Best Tips for Container Shipping Within Canada in 2024!

Container Shipping Within Canada
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Mona Sohal

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While the image of towering metal containers stacked on cargo ships traversing vast oceans is a familiar one, these ingenious boxes represent far more than just a common sight.They are a testament to human innovation that has revolutionized the movement of goods across the globe. And this blog dives into the process of container shipping within Canada.

We’ll first explore how these shipping containers earned the nickname “workhorses of the sea.” Then, we’ll see how businesses are using them in new ways. We’ll also look at how people who own homes are finding uses for them. 

Finally, we’ll discover how even architects are getting creative with shipping containers. Get ready for a trip that explores how these ordinary containers are making a big splash in Canada, from vast waterways to city centers. 

It’s all thanks to this clever invention that’s become a key part of Canadian trade and a great example of what humans can achieve when we’re creative!

So let’s take a look into it!

What is Container Shipping?

Standardized container sizes in 1961 (thanks ISO!) revolutionized trade. Faster loading on ships meant cheaper ocean freight, opening doors for small businesses. Today, containers and international trade are practically inseparable. Even everyday goods likely traveled in a container! Now, let’s navigate the exciting world of shipping!

Container Shipping in Canada

Canada is a major player in the world of container shipping. According to statistics from 2008 to – 2022, the country saw a massive volume of container traffic exceeding 7 million TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units). This impressive number reflects a steady increase from previous years.

To handle this growing demand, Canada’s main ports are undergoing significant upgrades. Major shipping hubs like the Port of Montreal and the Port of Vancouver are expanding their rail and terminal capacities, with a goal to streamline the ocean freight industry.

Furthermore, inland ports like the Port of Toronto are flourishing too. As this central location allows efficient distribution of goods to a large portion of Canada’s population.

These ongoing infrastructure improvements position Canada’s shipping industry for even greater success. And by further expanding in capacity and fostering flexibility, Canada is ensuring a smoother and more efficient container shipping for years to come.

Types of Shipping Containers

Canadian exporters have two main choices for container shipping, they are – 

Less Than Container Load (LCL)

  • Cost-effective: Ideal for smaller shipments where you only need a portion of the container. You only pay for the space you use.
  • Slower transit times: You’ll share the container with other shippers, so your shipment might wait for others to fill the space before it departs.
  • Good for: Businesses shipping non-bulky items who prioritize affordability over speed.

Full Container Load (FCL)

  • Faster: You rent the entire container, so there’s no waiting for other shipments.
  • More expensive: You pay for the entire container, even if you don’t fill it.
  • Greater control: You can manage loading and choose the best shipping route for your needs.

Good for: Businesses who prioritize quick delivery for larger shipments or who are willing to pay for the convenience of a dedicated container.

Manufacturers and distributors need to find the right balance between cost-effectiveness and timely delivery, both critical aspects of their business. LCL offers affordability, while FCL provides speed and control. The best option depends on your specific needs and priorities.

Standardized Shipping Containers

Shipping containers come in a variety of standard sizes. Making it easier to move goods around the world by sea, train, and truck. 

Here’s a breakdown of the most common ones:

  • 20 feet (6.09 meters): This is the most common size and the basis for measuring container capacity (TEU). Think of it as the building block!
  • 40 feet (12.18 meters): This size offers double the space of a 20-foot container.
  • 45 feet (14.6 meters): While less common, these containers offer even more space for larger shipments.

There are also some container sizes mainly used in North America for rail and truck transport:

  • 48 feet (14.63 meters)
  • 53 feet (16.15 meters): Introduced by Canadian Tire in 1994.
  • 60 feet (18.29 meters): The newest and longest container, again pioneered by Canadian Tire in 2017.

But size isn’t everything! Containers also come in different styles to suit specific cargo needs:

  • Dry cargo: This is the basic “box” container for all your general shipping needs.
  • Flat rack: Ideal for oversized or oddly shaped cargo like barrels or machinery.
  • Refrigerated: Keeps your fresh foods and other perishables cool during transport.
  • Tank: Designed to safely transport liquids, gasses, and even powders.
  • Garmentainer: Features built-in clothing racks for hanging garments during shipping.
  • Open-top: Perfect for bulky items that wouldn’t fit in a standard container.

So, the next time you see a giant container ship, remember, it’s not just a bunch of identical boxes! Each container is carefully chosen based on the specific cargo it carries, ensuring a safe and efficient journey across continents.

Note – For more in-depth Standard Shipping Container info you can read this blog.

So Which Container Should You Pick?

With all these options available, which one should you pick?

For Large Shipments (over 15 Cubic Meter) :

Full Container Load (FCL)

For large shipments exceeding 15 cubic meters (CBM), Full Container Load (FCL) is the ideal option. This ensures your goods are delivered efficiently and on time. Since you have the entire container to yourself, there’s no need for multiple shipments.

Choosing Your Container Size (Importers):

Importers have a variety of container sizes to choose from, depending on their cargo volume. Options include standard 20-foot dry containers or even larger 45-foot high cube containers.

For Smaller Shipments:

Less Than Container Load (LCL)

LCL shipping might be more suitable for smaller, non-urgent shipments. However, it’s not ideal for perishable, fragile, or valuable items due to the increased risk of damage or delays. In these cases, FCL is the safer option.

Oversized Cargo:

For cargo that’s too large or bulky to fit even a 40-foot container, a special shipping method called “breakbulk” is used. In breakbulk shipping, each item is packaged and shipped individually.

Proper Container Shipping Paperworks

Smooth sailing for your imported goods starts with the right paperwork. Here’s what Canadian importers need to have to avoid delays at the border:

Essential Documents:

  • Commercial Invoice: 

This document details the transaction between the buyer (importer) and the seller (exporter), including product descriptions, quantities, and values.

  • Bill of Lading:

 Acts as a receipt for your shipment, proving ownership and outlining the transport details.

  • Letter of Credit (optional): 

A financial guarantee issued by the importer’s bank, assuring payment to the exporter upon meeting specific conditions.

  • Customs Authorization: 

Grants permission for the importer to clear goods through Canadian customs.

  • Certificate of Origin: 

Verifies where your goods were produced, potentially impacting import duties.

  • Packing List: 

Provides a detailed breakdown of the contents within your container.

LCL Shipments (Less Than Container Load): 

If you’re using LCL shipping, where your goods share a container with others, your shipment might be consolidated at a designated location before you can pick it up. Alternatively, you might need to wait for it to arrive at a specific pick-up point.


Container shipping Within Canada isn’t just about moving boxes, it’s about happy customers. Shippers work with freight forwarders and courier software companies to make shipping seamless. And choosing the right port, considering cargo type (LCL/FCL), and picking a reliable carrier all contribute to a smooth delivery.

So with all these container knowledge, are you ready to navigate the exciting world of container shipping? 


What Is The Most Common Shipping Container?

Dry containers are the most widely used type in container shipping. They’re the go-to option for transporting a vast range of everyday cargo, making them the true workhorses of the industry.

How to calculate the CBM for Containers?

Cubic meters (CBM) is a vital measurement in container shipping. It represents the volume (length x width x height) of your cargo, essentially the space it occupies.

For instance, a package measuring 2.5 meters long, 1.6 meters wide, and 2.2 meters high would have a volume of 8.8 cubic meters (CBM) calculated as:

CBM = 2.5m x 1.6m x 2.2m = 8.8m³

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