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By Sheree Jones 3 months ago

How to open and close the doors on a shipping container

How to open and close the doors on a shipping container


For many of our customers doing their first self-pack container move, it is their first experience of dealing with a shipping container.  Whether you are familiar with shipping containers or not, sometimes the opening and closing of the container doors can be challenging. There are a few tips we can offer to assist you if you run into any difficulties with this.


Parts of a shipping container door


Parts of a shipping container door | Budget Self Pack Containers


The main components of a shipping container door are fairly simple. The two doors open from the middle outwards (unless you have a container with a side door opening).  There are 3 (or sometimes 4) long metal rods running from the top to the bottom of the container, these slot into locking cams which secure the doors. The doors are opening by twisting these rods with the door handles. The lockbox is a steel case protecting the padlock.


How to open shipping container doors

If you are moving interstate using a 20ft self-pack shipping container, it will generally be delivered on a tilt tray truck to your address. The container is not locked when it arrives at your address. It is your responsibility to supply a padlock and to lock the container when it is in your possession - there is more information about doing this below or here


To open the shipping container you will do the following steps for each handle (the right-side container door always opens first):

1.   Turn the door handle bracket (3)  counterclockwise so they are facing upwards - off the door handles.

2.   The door on the right-hand side will open first. Lift the door handle (1) up slightly then pull outwards towards yourself. You will see the locking cam disengage from the keeper. 

3.   When the door handle is pointing towards you, ie. at a 90 degree angle from the container, pull it outwards towards you using your leg strength rather than your back and the door will swing open.

4.   Repeat for the left side door.


Troubleshooting when the container door won't open (or close)

There can be various reasons why a container door won't open.  They can be challenging to open due to the fact that the doors and heavy and have tight seals to ensure they are watertight. The most common reason is that the doors are slightly out of alignment with the container

The container doors are out of alignment

When the shipping container is placed on the ground, it should be in a flat position. Uneven placement can cause the container doors to be slightly out of alignment or can also cause the cargo to shift applying pressure against the doors. 

Often the container doors will open/close when it is empty and then once the cargo is loaded onboard, they then won't close. Usually, this is because the container is sloping slightly in one direction and the extra weight of the cargo causes a twist in the container's structure. If you attempt to close the doors and one door is sitting higher than the other you can try the following:

How to fix:

If your container door is not opening you can attempt to leverage the container to get the doors back into alignment.

Close the doors as far as you can and then look at the container doors, one is likely to be lower than the other. This side of the container will need to be lifted/leveraged to flatten the structure of the container again. You can do this with a car jack under the corner of the container. Often is is only a few centimetres that will make the difference, lift the container slightly with the car jack and then have a support of timber/steel ready to place under the container. 


Using the lockbox on a shipping container

A lockbox is a steel fitting that is welded onto the container door in order to provide a secure place where you can padlock the container shut. This makes it harder for anyone to access cutting devices to the padlock to reduce the chance of anyone breaking into the container. 

Shipping container lockbox | BSPC Removalists


At Budget Self Pack Containers we recommend that you utilise the lockbox when the moving container is at your address for loading/unloading. We do not recommend that you use it when the container is in transit.  The space for the padlock in the lockbox is very tight and the padlock can easily become jammed when the container flexes in transit. If you do decide to have a padlock in the lockbox during transit, you should make sure that you can get the padlock out of the lockbox before the truck departs after unloading at your destination address. You should also make sure that another padlock is visible on one of the non-lockbox locking points so that it is visible to rail terminal staff.

What is a bolt seal on a shipping container?

A bolt seal is a type of metal pin sometimes used to lock shipping container doors. It can be locked by hand but needs to be removed with bolt cutters. We transport our moving containers by rail, if the container is delivered into the terminal with no padlock (or one that is not visible, ie. in the lockbox), the container doors may be deemed to be inadequately secured and a bolt seal will be fitted. You would need to obtain bolt cutters to remove this.


Shipping container bolt seal | Budget Self Pack Containers


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