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How to Open and Close a Shipping Container (with Video)

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Learn how to open and close a shipping container the right way by following the simple steps we’ve outlined for you here. Whether it’s your first time using a storage container for sale or lease or you need a refresher because you only use your custom container for experiential events, you can return to this guide whenever needed.

Shipping containers are built to keep out all wind and water when carrying cargo across the ocean, so their doors must close as tightly as possible. As a result, container doors have a few nuances that might seem challenging if you have never used one before. We want to make using the storage container you rent, buy, or modify as seamless as possible. Knowing how to open and close Conex containers correctly is essential for keeping you and others safe from injury, your contents secure, and your unit in top working condition.

The corrugated exterior of a shipping container's door. The doors make it easy to open and close a shipping container.
Here’s how to open and close a shipping container from Southwest Mobile Storage.

How to Open a Storage Container

Follow these three easy steps to open a storage container from Southwest Mobile Storage. If you have any questions, contact us for support.

1. Unlock Any Locks

The first step is to unlock any locks on your container.

  1. Unlock and remove your puck lock, also known as a disc lock, from the slide bolt on the right door.
  2. Unlock and remove the padlock from the lockbox on the left door.
  3. Unlock and remove any other padlocks on the tabs of the handles of the locking bars on both doors.

Graphic that showcases how to open and close a shipping container. It states "remove all locks from the container"

2. Open the Right Door

Always open a storage container by starting with the door on your right when you face the unit from the outside.

  1. Pull the slide bolt handle to the right.
  2. Reach down and flip the tabs on the locking bar handles up. Some cargo doors will only have one bar and handle, but many will have two.
  3. While standing directly in front of it, grab the locking bar handles on the door and pull them toward you, so the handles stick out about 90 degrees from the door.
  4. Pull backward on the handles simultaneously to remove the locking bars from the cam latches, also known as knuckles, located on the bottom and top of the unit. Let go of the handles and let them hang. Doors with two handles will need to have both pulled at the same time to open.
  5. Use the bar inside the door to swing it all the way open.

Graphic that showcases how to open and close a shipping container. It states, "Flip locking tabs and pull out handles."

3. Open the Left Door

Next, open the left door of your container. As you did on the first door, flip up the tabs on the locking bar handles of the left door.

  1. Look inside the container at the bottom right corner of the door to locate the cane bolt and spring latch. Lift and turn the cane bolt to the right, putting it in the open position.
  2. Grab the locking bar handles on the outside of the door and pull toward you as you did with the other door.
  3. Pull backward on the handles simultaneously to remove the locking bars from the cam latches. Let go of the handles.
  4. Open the door.

Graphic that showcases how to open and close a shipping container. It states "open the right door first, then the left door."

How to Close a Container

Closing the doors on your shipping container can be tricky. Follow these three simple steps to shut your container doors. Need help? Contact us for assistance.

1. Close the Left Door

Always close a shipping container by starting with the door on your left.

  1. Look at the cane bolt on the bottom right corner of the inside of the door and ensure it is in the open position.
  2. Pull the locking bar handles on the outside of the metal container away from the door toward you.
  3. Push the cargo door closed, adjusting the locking bar handle position to align the corresponding cam latches and bars. You must perfectly align the locking bars and latches to shut it.
  4. Push the handles to the left, so they rest against the container in the locked position.
  5. Flip the tabs on the locking bars down.
  6. Turn the cane bolt inside the container to the left until it drops into its designated hole.

2. Close Right Door

Once the left door is properly closed, you can shut the right door.

  1. Pull the locking bar handles up and away from the door toward you.
  2. Use the handles to close the steel container door, adjusting your handle position as needed to align the bottom cam latches and bars perfectly.
  3. Push the handles to the right, so they rest against the container in the locked position.
  4. Flip the tabs on the locking bars down.
  5. Push the slide bolt to the left.

3. Secure Your Container

Once both doors are secure, you can put your locks on. It’s important to lock your container so your contents are secure.

  1. Place a puck lock on the slide bolt tab and lock it.
  2. Place a padlock in the lockbox and lock it.
  3. Place any other padlocks on one or more locking bar tabs and lock them.

Graphic that showcases how to open and close a shipping container. It states "Close the left and right doors, secure bolt"

Tips for Opening and Closing a Container

Now that you know how to properly open and close a shipping container you rent, buy or modify, here are a few extra precautions to preserve your safety and your unit’s condition.

  • Always open the doors one at a time, starting with the one on the right. Otherwise, they will not open or may get jammed in the middle.
  • Slowly pull the doors open while using the strength of your legs to ensure you do not injure your back, neck, or shoulders.
  • Ensure the container is placed on a level surface, so the floor does not warp and the doors can close properly.
  • Notice any unusual resistance or pressure on the door or sounds of moving objects when you open your storage container. It could signify that your content shifted during transportation and may fall when you open it.

Video: How to Open and Close a Shipping Container

In this short video, we discuss how to properly open, close and secure your shipping container cargo doors so you can keep your belongings safe and secure.

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