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Marine containers are designed to ship cargo in rust-resistant corten steel boxes that can secure its cargo, seal the cargo from the elements, and be robust enough to safely stack nine high on container vessels and in depots.


Cargo containers are secured with two heavy (300 lb +) overlapping steel barn doors on one end of the container, swinging on four hinge pins attached to the corner posts, which are then fastened with two lock rod/latch assemblies (latch) on each door.  Some containers, built specifically for the storage industry, may have one latch on the right-hand door with a longer handle that is easier to use.  For the newcomer, opening and closing container doors can be a challenge, made much easier when observing some elements unique to container doors.


The process for opening a container door is


  • open the right-hand door first as it overlaps the left-hand door

  • the latches disengage sequentially

  • lift, pull & twist open both latches simultaneously 

  • pull the container door open when the latch handles are perpendicular to the door


The process for closing a container door is


  • close the left-hand door first as it overlaps with the right-hand door

  • push the door closed with the latches held perpendicular to the door

  • as the lock rod/latch assemblies engage the keepers at the top and bottom of the door frame, twist and push the latches closed, noting that one latch will engage first and that both latches need to be twisted closed at the same time


TIP: look up to make sure that the top keepers are being properly engaged


  • latches may require an extra push (ie;  your knee) as the door gasket is compressed during the last inch of travel. Older gaskets will require more of a push than fresh gaskets.

  • when completely closed, lower the latches over their retainers


Some container door issues are


  • container doors may not operate properly if the container is not level (most common issue)

  • the hinge pins may stiffen (second most common door issue) if the container has been sitting for a while, if they have not been lubricated, if they are frozen during winter months and/or have gotten dirt mixed in with the grease

  • twisted lock rods particularly when the keepers were not properly engaged during closing (especially the top keeper)

  • build up on lock rod keepers

  • stiff door gaskets;  they harden due to age, dryness, ice or damage

  • anomalies that affect the door frame square or hinge pin alignment

Orange Cargo Container Isolated on White..jpeg
front view of open empty cargo container with open doors.jpeg


The steps for fixing container door issues are


level the container 


  • address the hinge pin issues alternately with penetrating oil, lubricants, grease or heat (if packed with frozen or dirty grease), working the door back and forth to loosen the hinge pins


TIP: The long-term remedy for stiff hinges is to drill the hinge pin castings and install grease fittings


  • grind off build-up on the keepers with an angle grinder

  • replace broken or damaged parts

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