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How Secure Are Shipping Containers?

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Ensuring the protection of stored materials from unauthorized access and tampering has become a paramount concern for individuals and businesses alike. Valuable equipment, confidential documents and sensitive inventory demand a reliable solution to safeguard them effectively. Fortunately, shipping containers offer robust security systems that enhance protection against unauthorized intrusion.

It’s important to mention that no lock or security system will be completely foolproof. Container security is all about strengthening the weakest link in the design, but there will always be flaws that thieves can exploit. However, a stronger security system will take longer to break into and require high-powered equipment, which isn’t worth the effort for most criminals.

At Southwest Mobile Storage, that’s the level of security we aim to achieve — cost-effective while still providing exceptional protection. In this blog, we showcase what makes our shipping containers more secure than other available options.

How Container Security Components Work Together

A shipping container is a secure storage option compared with competing products in the portable storage market. It has the incredible ability to withstand weather effects and retain that strength for decades.

Shipping containers are already very secure as storage space. When they arrive in the United States for storage use, they’ve helped protect many cargo loads as they’ve been transported on freight lines. They’ve endured storms, troubles and rough handling and remain structurally sound. Because containers have been standardized, they’re guaranteed to have similar security standards.

While there’s plenty of information about the security offered by shipping containers, not much examines the different components of container security that work together to form a solid shield against intruders. The following is an examination of these parts and a deeper investigation of what makes containers effective at preventing break-ins and burglaries.

The Five Components of Container Security

At SMS, our shipping containers have five key components that keep them secure:

1. Puck Lock

A puck lock attached to the door of a shipping container.
A Puck lock is made of thick steel and is generally better for security than padlocks because of its enclosed shackle.

A puck lock is a specific type without a visible shackle that provides a higher level of security because of its unique design. The weak link in most locks is the visible shackle, which can be easily broken and cut with bolt cutters.

Puck locks are designed to minimize that weakness by housing the locking mechanism internally. It fits securely into a round hasp that forces would-be thieves to attempt to pick the lock in an unnatural way.

The back side of a puck lock, showing the small cavity where the locking mechanism is housed.
The back side of a puck lock has a cavity that houses the lock’s shackle. The shackle is held in the locked position when it is suspended by the two steel bars in the top of the lock.

Another common weak link for lock security is where the shackle enters the lock. Criminals can attempt to break this area with a strong hammer, forcing the lock open. On a puck lock, this is more difficult because the area is recessed and reinforced with a drill-resistant brass core.

Inside the puck lock is a small cavity that houses the locking mechanism. Above are two steel pins that hold the locking mechanism in place. This prevents the hammerhead locking mechanism from being removed when locked.

Most thieves will see a lock like this and move on to an easier target. It offers stellar protection, and while not impregnable, puck locks are an essential security feature that keeps your stuff safe.

2. Slide Bolt

A puck lock sits open below a shipping container slide bolt.
The slide bolt moves freely once you remove the puck lock.

You can use the slide bolt locking mechanism to unlock it once the puck lock is removed. After that, it’s simple to unlock by moving the slide bolt to the right. This will pull the locking tabs apart. After moving this out of the way, we can move on to the next security feature.

3. Lock Box

A lock box installed on a shipping container. It protects the padlock inside.
Lock boxes, also called padlock protectors or cowl lock housing add another layer of security to your container.

Our modified lock box is one of the most important elements of shipping container security and possibly the strongest. A thick steel box on the right container door houses a space where you can lock a 2” long neck padlock. This lock holds the container doors together, even if the puck lock has been removed.

Because a padlock’s weakest point is the shackle, extra protection for the lock is essential. Without this system, it would be much easier for break-ins to occur. Most padlocks can be broken within seconds if a thief has the necessary tools to cut through the lock. Whether they use an angle grinder, a propane torch or bolt cutters, that lock can be gone in a flash if it’s not protected.

While it’s theoretically possible that someone could break into one of these with high-powered tools, it’s doubtful that a thief will want to bother themselves with the trouble of cutting through a puck lock, cutting through the lock box, and removing/picking the lock. While it might make for a thrilling action movie scene, it’s unrealistic and unlikely to happen.

4. Locking Bars

Container locking bars on a shipping container. This door can support 2 locks.
The locking bar handles have spaces for additional pad locks, meaning that SMS containers can typically support 4 locks on each container. There are spaces for 2 normal padlocks on the right container door, one extra-length padlock for the lock box, and one puck lock.

Locking bars are sturdy metal bars installed on the vertical edges of the container doors. When the container doors are closed, the locking bars can be engaged by sliding them into locking brackets or receivers mounted on the container frame. This effectively secures the doors and prevents them from being opened without removing the locking bars.

You can use locking bars in conjunction with padlocks or other locking mechanisms. The container becomes even more secure and resistant to tampering or forced entry by inserting a padlock through the door locking tabs.

5. Cane Bolt

A cane bolt inside a shipping container in an unlocked position.
A cane bolt helps secure your container doors from opening unexpectedly. While it doesn’t offer as many security benefits as other items on your container, it can help keep the doors in place if stored material shifts.

A cane bolt, also known as a drop bolt or a shipping container bolt, is a type of latch mechanism used in shipping containers. Its purpose is to secure the doors of a container in place.

Shipping containers typically have two doors that swing outward from the center, meeting in the middle when closed. You can install a cane bolt on the inside of the left door near the bottom to prevent it from opening during transport or operation. The cane bolt is a metal rod or bar that extends vertically from the bottom of the door and slides into a hole or socket on the bottom side rail of the container.

When the doors are closed, the cane bolt is lowered, effectively locking them together and preventing them from swinging open. This provides extra container security to ensure that stored contents remain intact and protected during transit or while being stored.

Using a cane bolt is particularly important when shipping containers are stacked or stored in a way that puts pressure on the doors. It helps distribute weight evenly across the doors, preventing them from opening or becoming damaged under stress. Additionally, it adds stability to the container, reducing the risk of the doors swinging open during handling or transportation.

How to Position a Lock in Your Lock Box

Positioning your lock inside the lockbox can be tricky if you do it for the first time. Follow these steps, and the process will go smoothly. It’s important to note that this area will only house a 2” padlock, not any other type of lock.

Unlock your padlock and hold it by the shackle. Then, locate the hole in the locking pin deep inside the lockbox. Put the lock’s shackle through the hole and pull it through the other end. Then, push your lock together, and turn it shut with your key. After this, your lock will be housed correctly inside your lockbox.

How to Properly Open and Close Your Container

You may have questions about how to open and close your container doors. It’s fairly simple, but there are a few things you need to know. Check out this blog on opening and closing a shipping container, or view this helpful video below.

Container Security Summary

Ensuring the protection of stored materials is a crucial concern for individuals and businesses alike. Container security features effectively safeguard valuable equipment, confidential documents and sensitive inventory from unauthorized access and tampering. While no security system is foolproof, shipping containers provide a high level of protection that deters most criminals.

Ready for peace-of-mind storage? Speak with us about your storage needs and receive your free container quote today.

Related Blogs About Container Security

Looking for more info? Stay ahead in container security! In our blog, you can delve into essential tips, industry best practices and cutting-edge technologies for safeguarding your valuable cargo. Learn how to mitigate risks, prevent theft and ensure peace of mind when renting or buying a shipping container from Southwest Mobile Storage.

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