The Best Shipping Container Unloading Methods

By  //  August 30, 2022

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For convenient transportation of goods by sea, rail, and road, metal cargo containers are used. Unloading the container may be required when it is delivered to the consumer or when reloaded to another mode of transport. All manipulations with the loading and unloading of the container must be carried out in accordance with the rules.

This allows avoiding damage to the container and the cargo that may be there. In this article, we will consider the basic requirements for loading and unloading containers, including containers with cargo, and also pay attention to shipping container unloading methods.

Container unloading methods

In the modern world, sea containers can be used not only for the transport of goods. Containers can be used as material to build a house, shop, warehouse, etc. Regardless of the purpose of use, it is important to know about container unloading methods. Let’s look at the best options.

Lift jacks for containers

Container lifting jacks are a portable and economical solution suitable for lifting containers. Some models can lift containers up to 32,000 kg / 70,000 lbs.

This container lifting system combines speed and automation in exchange for a much better price and mobility. However, automatic options reduce the rise time to less than 5 minutes.


 can lift heavy containers;

 handles all types of containers;


works in limited space;



doesn’t stack containers;

does not move containers around the territory.

Gantry cranes

Gantry cranes are large cranes that are placed at berths to transport containers from ships. The crane can move vertically. As a rule, this equipment is installed in one place, but it is also possible to move the docking station. This is expensive equipment, so the cost of services using this crane may be higher than other options.

Gantry cranes are common in ports, however, there is smaller similar equipment. It is equipped with rail or rubber tires that lift, transport, and stack containers in warehouses and other medium to large volumes.


efficiency and efficiency in completing tasks.


technology is expensive to install and maintain.

Straddle carrier

This equipment may have a different size. Like a gantry crane, this loader lifts containers from above. This technology is mobile, it can be easily moved around the warehouse. This is a great option for moving containers, however, the weight and size of the straddle carrier require the equipment to be used on a reinforced concrete surface.

There are also mini straddle carriers which are often used by importers, exporters, and container yards handling low to medium volume containers.


relatively fast and mobile;

can fold containers.


can only be used in one warehouse;

a reinforced concrete surface is required.

Reach stacker

The reach stacker allows you to quickly and safely load and unload containers. This equipment allows you to lift containers of an impressive size, as well as transport certain containers around the warehouse, between stacks, rail cars, and chassis. The reach stacker allows you to stack up to 3 containers in height and depth.

This equipment is automated and requires only an operator. However, the cost of models with innovative features is quite high – from 500k for a new unit.


quick turnover;


can fold containers.




Forklifts are widely used in manufacturing and rock climbing tasks. Although these equipment are more commonly used for transporting small loads over short distances, similar heavy-duty forklifts are excellent equipment for lifting and moving empty containers.

Forklifts for massive objects should be used with care. The uneven weight distribution of the container when using the equipment can adversely affect the result.





care should be taken when distributing the weight of containers;

mobile but massive loaders can only be used in one area.

Side loader

Side loaders – heavy-duty chassis that allow you to move empty containers and containers with cargo to/from the ground or other chassis.

This is a versatile technology that will be an excellent option when containers need to be lifted in several places. The disadvantage of a side loader is the need to use a tractor. Container lifting equipment up to 5,000 kg (11,000 lb), which increases the tare weight compared to a conventional chassis and can shift the available payload.


moving the container can take only 5-10 minutes.

only 1 operator intervention is required to complete the task


equipment is not available in many countries;

equipment weight.

Tilt platform

The tilt chassis lowers the rear of the platform to the ground, allowing containers to be lifted or pushed off the vehicle. This method is usually limited to empty containers or lightly loaded containers of non-precious goods.

Priced between $70,000 and $90,000, these vehicles cost less than a side loader but have lower container capacity. The key point to remember if you are using a drop bed is that there must be enough room for the truck to leave in a relatively straight line. So the site should be the length of the shipping container (20 or 40 feet) plus the length of the truck and trailer.


cheaper than some container lifting options;


unable to lift or move heavy shipping containers;

cannot handle all types of ISO containers;

slow turn;

it is not possible to use the equipment if the contents are fragile or need to be kept level.

Truck Crane 

This equipment involves the use of a crane and a self-carrier. Unlike a side loader that places a container next to a truck, a truck crane lowers containers to any location within reach of the truck crane.

However, the disadvantage is that this range is limited by the weight of the container, so this equipment is suitable for applications where empty or lightly loaded containers need to be lifted. As a rule, the truck crane can only handle 20ft containers.


convenience when working with containers in limited space;



unable to lift heavy containers;

cannot handle all types of containers.

Final thoughts

Loading or unloading of sea containers of 20 and 40 feet can be carried out using special loaders or truck cranes of various specifications. Often, a truck crane gets to the place of unloading together with a container ship, which greatly simplifies further actions – if necessary, it can also arrange containers one by one to save space.  

Pelican Containers is a reliable provider of new and used containers for sale and delivery at affordable prices. It offers containers in different sizes, so you can choose the one that suits your needs.