How Do Shipping Containers Protect Against Fire Damage?

Fire prevention is probably not what you think of first when considering a shipping container to store or transport your goods. However, this is a real concern that should be considered when purchasing a unit, no matter what the intended use. We all know shipping containers can withstand the harsh conditions of the ocean, but what about fire?

Fires at Sea

Fires at sea can and do happen. But the problem doesn’t always lie with the container itself. In fact, the steel container keeps the fire contained. Most fires in these circumstances are a result of dangerous materials that have not met the proper safety requirements.

The most hazardous cargos that can result in fires within a shipping container include:

  • Explosives (fireworks, etc.)
  • Gasses (medical oxygen tanks, etc.)
  • Flammable liquids and solids (anything that can spontaneously combust)
  • Lithium batteries
  • Organic peroxides or other types of oxidizing substances

Despite the inherent dangers of the above substances, they should still be able to make the trip safely if they are housed in an appropriate shipping container and the owner has notified the relevant authorities of the type of cargo. It’s estimated that about five percent of shipping containers have mislabeled contents because the shippers don’t want to pay the higher fees associated with shipping dangerous materials.

However, most shipping container fires stay within one container and eventually will self-extinguish. This de-escalation to more severe damage is a testament to how well shipping containers can contain fires.

There has been talk about implementing smart technology that enables containers to detect the presence of hazardous cargo and alert the carrier, but these “smart” sensors are still a ways off, according to the Journal of Commerce.

How Shipping Containers Protect Against Fire

Unmodified shipping containers are naturally fire-resistant, but if you are transporting hazardous materials, you can make further modifications to protect against fire.

Fires: Interior

U.S. Coastguard tests show that wood fires inside a container can be self-extinguished as they are depleted of oxygen. But fires fueled by flammable liquids could lead to the pressurization and explosion of the container. That being said, most simple fires inside containers will self-extinguish and remain contained.

Fires: Exterior

Corten steel can help storage containers become fire resistant, ensuring it is nonflammable when exposed to fire and will retain its shape. Sparks from wildfires, for example, won’t set the container ablaze, but twigs and leaves that have built up on the roof could burn – they won’t, however, burn a hole in the steel.

Generally, contents of the container won’t sustain smoke damage unless immersed in a wildfire for long periods of time. Because steel is stronger than aluminum, with a lower heat conductivity, contents will remain safe. Did you know steel can handle temperatures up to 1,000°F before it softens, and 2,500°F before melting?

Contact Kickbox Leasing

When you need fire resistant, durable and high quality storage containers, look to Kickbox for the solution. Call us for a free quote at 806-410-1970 or email us at




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