What is teu

What is TEU: A Comprehensive Guide

If you are relatively new to the shipping business, you’ll come across some across the list after a list of several ocean freight acronyms.

This, however, doesn’t imply that the shipping industry is complex and convoluted.

In this guide, I will take you through one of the most basic but common acronyms in the shipping world known as TEU.

Let’s dive deeper and get to know more about this acronym;

Meaning of TEU in Shipping Terms

TEU is an abbreviation, which stands for the Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit.

Primarily, TEU refers to the unit of measure based on the dimensions of a 20-foot standard container.

20 ft container

 20 ft container

In other words, TEU refers to an internationally standardized unit used for counting the standardized ISO containers.

The dimensions of a standardized 20-foot container are 8.5 feet high, 8 feet wide, and 20-feet long.

These measurements represent an approximate volume of 38.5 cubic meters.

TEU is also a unit used in calculating the volume of containers loaded on a vessel or stored at a terminal.

Moreover, this unit also serves to calculate the loading capacity of a particular container ship.

Most of the container ship operators also depend on TEU to formulate their specific transport capacity.

Simply put, TEU in anything and everything ranging from determining merchandise and cargo capacity on shipping vessels.

It is also useful when it comes to selecting the type of container to help in determining the port activity.

History of TEU

When discussing TEU, it is always vital to understand how this universal unit of the measure came about.

Moreover, knowing the person who invented it and how it applies currently in the shipping world is also fundamental.

Principally, understanding the history of TEU is similar to comprehending the history of shipping containers.

TEU influenced how shipping containers became standardized.

Malcolm McLean is the person behind the invention of TEU.

He was an entrepreneur who realized that cargo loading and unloading in the early 1900s was quite challenging and time-consuming.

Back then, a structured system was hardly in place.

Goods in different forms were being moved across different forms of transportation one by one.

The cargo was also loaded and unloaded onto and from different shipping vessels using the same approach.

The entire method was inefficient; hence McLean saw the need for finding a better approach to streamline and standardize the process.

And this is where the concept of creating and using standard-sized containers for hauling cargos came into realization.

Containers became efficient in transporting cargo both on trucks and ships without loading and unloading it each time transportation mode changed.

Even so, McLean’s containers measured 35-feet long, whereas his competitor’s measured 24-feet long.

It is this discrepancy that became more challenging to the US government, which had the interest to ship more efficiently.

And this is what led to the standardization of the shipping containers we currently use.

20-foot and 40-foot were devised later on as the standard shipping containers.

This was after two rounds of standardization by ISO in 1968 to define container classification, dimensions, and identification

At this point, the 20-foot went to known as Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit hence TEU we have today.

Comparison between TEU and FEU

COSCO Shipping Lane

 COSCO Shipping Lane

A Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit (TEU) refers to a shipping container with internal dimensions measuring about 20 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8 feet tall.

TEU can hold between 9-11 pallets depending on whether they are standard or EUR pallets.

A Forty-Foot Equivalent Unit (FEU) refers to a shipping container with internal dimensions measuring about 40 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8 feet tall.

FEU can hold between 20-24 pallets depending on whether they are standard or EUR pallets.

Both TEU and FEU are used to describe the container size.

Additionally, TEU and FEU are also used as a measure to standardize the amount of cargo volume being referenced.

Key Aspects of Understanding TEU

Several fundamental elements revolve around TEU.

Such aspects help in understanding the role and efficiency of TEU in shipping.

These aspects include the following;

  • TEU is the unit for counting the shipping containers irrespective of their dimensions.
  • A standard container typically counts as 1 TEU.
  • A 40-foot container corresponds to 2 TEU
  • Containers bigger than 40-feet, such as 45, 48, and 53 feet in length, corresponding to 2, 2.4, and 2.65 TEUs, respectively.
  • The essence of TEU invention was to facilitate the calculation volume of ships equipped with slots for 40-feet containers.

Technically, these slots can stock two 20-feet containers.

  • High cube containers and half-height containers count as 1 TEU.

How to Calculate TEU

The formula for calculating TEU is relatively simple.

All you need is to divide the length of the container in feet by 20.

This will enable you to get the TEU units, which also allows you to calculate the cost of shipping for your containers.

Versatility and Practicality of TEU

In the present shipping world, TEU plays an integral role.

It is the unit of measurement for the most popular types of shipping containers.

Moreover, it is also used to determine the vessel size and capacity and calculate the overall port activity.

The size of vessels varies hence categorized by different names depending on their TEU capacity.

For instance, some of the largest containerships in the world today have a carrying capacity of over 14,000 TEU.

On the other hand, the smaller feeder vessels can manage a capacity of 1,000 TEU.

Here is a list of how vessel sizes are commonly classified based on their TEU capacity.

  • Small feeder – up to 1,000 TEU
  • Feeder – Between 1,000 to 2,000 TEU
  • Feedermax – Between 2,000 to 3,000 TEU
  • Panamax vessel – Between 3,000 to 5,000 TEU
  • Post panamax vessel – Between 5,000 to 10,000 TEU
  • New Panamax vessel – Between 10,000 to 14,500 TEU
  • Ultra Large Container Vessel – 14,500 TEU and above

Presently, the largest shipping vessel is Swiss-Italian owned carrier know as MSC.

It measures 400m long, 61.5m wide, and 33.2m high.

This vessel can hold up to about 23 756 TEUs.

TEU in Figures

Understanding TEU in numbers is vital in knowing how the shipping world conducts its business.

Ideally, in 2017 there was a representation of close to 753 million TEUs in the world traffic of containers.

Maersk, a Danish company regarded as the biggest container ship operator globally, had a capacity of almost 3.3 million TEUs in 2017.

Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), a Swiss-Italian shipping company, had a capacity of 3 million TEUs in 2017.

CMA CGM, a French-based shipping company, came third with a capacity of 2.1 million TEUs in that same year.

Over time, container ships tend to get bigger and bigger, with the capacity increasing every passing year.

Top Busiest Container Ports in China

During the calendar year, Chinese ports have been leading in handling containers in the world.

 Sea Ports in China

Sea Ports in China

1. Port of Shanghai

It is arguably the busiest port in China and is regarded among the busiest one in the entire world.

In 2019, this port recorded a throughput of 43.3 million TEUs.

This port is located in Shanghai Municipality, East China.

2. Port of Ningbo-Zhoushan

This port is also considered among the leading busiest ports in the world.

In 2019 it handled a container capacity of 27.54 million TEUs.

It is located in Ningbo & Zhoushan, Zhejiang province, China.

3. Shenzhen

This port is situated in Shenzhen city, Guangdong province.

It consists of different ports along the coastline of Shenzhen, which collectively form this busy and fast-growing container hub.

In 2019 it handled a container capacity of 25.77 million TEUs.

4. Port of Guangzhou

This is the main seaport located in Guangzhou city, Guangdong province.

In 2019 it recorded a container capacity of 23.22 million TEUs.

5. Qingdao Port

This port is located on the Yellow sea within the vicinity of Qingdao in Shandong province.

It is among the fastest-growing and busiest ports in China.

In 2019, Qingdao port handled a container capacity of 21.01 million TEUs.

6. Port of Hong Kong

Thus port is situated in the South China Sea.

It is dominated by business in containerized manufactured products.

In some instances, it is often referred to as the Victoria Harbor.

In 2019, this port recorded a container capacity of 18.3 million TEUs.

7. Tianjin Port

Formerly known as Port of Tanggu is the largest one in Northern China.

It is also the main maritime gateway to Beijing.

It handled a container capacity of 17.3 million TEUs in 2019.

The essence of TEU in Shipping

TEU is vital in a variety of aspects surrounding port and shipping activities.

Some of the advantages of TEU in the shipping world include the following;

· Offers Possibility of Traceability

TEU makes it easy for you to track your cargo from the port of loading to the destination port.

It hence essential since you’ll know the status of your consignment when in transit.

This way, you can easily arrange with your customers to know the precise time to start the distribution process.

· Offers Protection

The construction design of all containers entails a lockable door.

This is significant since it guarantees the safety of your cargo inside the container throughout the transit process.

The essence of this is it gives you peace of mind knowing you will receive your goods as they were packed from the supplier.

Moreover, the material used for constructing the containers is also weather resistant.

Thus it offers protection to your cargo from unfavorable weather and environmental conditions.

· Easy to Regulate the Atmosphere

The use of containers in shipping makes it easy for you to determine the specific atmosphere suitable for your goods.

You can choose to ventilate, refrigerate, or heat the container to provide the necessary conditions that fit your items’ needs.

· It is Intermodal

You can easily ship containers by freight trains or trucks.

This usually happens mostly during inland transportation, where trucks and trains aid in moving containers to respective warehouses.

In essence, this enhances convenience, thus making it ideal for you to receive your cargo to your respective destination effectively.

· Offers Stacking Capability

It is easy to stack containers when loading on a vessel.

You can stack up to eight containers, especially when you are using a forklift.

It is also possible to load the containers on the vessel with mobile cranes, boom lifts, or gantries.

Difference between TEU and Ton

In the USA, a ton refers to a unit of measuring weight equal to 2000 pounds.

In other parts of the world, tonne is equal to 1000 kilograms or approximately 2204 pounds.

On the other hand, TEU is a standard shipping container that is twenty feet long, eight feet wide, and eight feet high.

Most containers can take up to 28 tons.

However, weight restrictions on local roads may determine the precise tons your container can have.

An ideal way of figuring out this is to find a reliable and reputable freight forwarding company.

This way, you will be advised regarding the rules and regulations surrounding TEU weight and any related aspect.

The container always has a tare and max gross weight indicated on it.

When loading the container, therefore, you need to ensure it is undertaken with the utmost care and attention.

The essence is to help in attaining uniform weight distribution.

Measures should also be taken to make sure the cargo does not shift or move when in transit.

A competent freight forwarder will always come in handy in such incidences.

Eventually, you’ll attain the best overall results and a remarkable shipping experience.

 Types of shipping container

Types of shipping container

As you can see, TEU plays an essential role in the overall shipping process.

It is always important to get this information to guide you in knowing the different aspects of the shipping world.

You can use TEU for shipping different types of items, including heavy machinery.

However, you must also consider safety since it is paramount when it comes to shipping.

If you have any inquiries regarding TEU and related services, feel free to contact us.

We are always available for help – contact us now.

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