Alternatives to Side Opening Shipping Containers

New 20ft side opening shipping container20ft and 40ft side opening shipping containers open up along their full length. This makes them the most convenient option for easy-access storage. These are not commonly used for shipping and are produced in much smaller numbers than standard (end-opening) containers. Due to the additional engineering and strength required for the side opening door construction, these tend to be the higher priced option in their size (excluding some very specialised offshore containers), and are very rarely available second hand.

Shipping was hit very hard at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, and supply of one-trip containers into the UK all but dried up. This caused prices to rise to record heights. Containers are now moving again, so prices of standard end-opening units have dropped from their peak, but side opening containers are not likely to be imported for a few months longer and are currently available at a premium, as importers are needing to pay more than normal to get these moved into the UK for sale. This price spike is expected to last for most of 2020

Side opening containers will always come in at a fair premium over other options even without the current price spike. for that reason we’ve made this post detailing a number of possible alternatives to side opening containers.  Due to the wide range of  potential uses and industries these will be used within we can’t guarantee every alternative will be relevant for every customer or situation, but we hope this may help offer some solutions for some customers looking for a saving o a one trip side opening container.

What are side Opening Shipping Containers used for?

Go Pro Shipping Container

Side opening shipping containers are rarely used for international shipping. They cost around double what a standard container costs, so if an exporter can make an item fit into a standard container then they will. This also means that major shipping lines do not use side opening shipping containers in their fleets of containers that are used for shipping.  Only when an item is impossible to load and unload via the end doors will a side opening container be used.

Side opening containers, when available in the UK, have almost certainly been built specifically for the retail market. They will be one-trip units that have been used to ship cargo on a single journey from China to the UK, and then made available for sale. It is very rare to find these available as second hand – because there are no shipping lines selling off large volumes of used containers (in the way that does happen with more standard containers)  They come into their own when used for static storage. No need to pull out a few tonnes of ‘stuff’ to find what you are looking for in a dark container, simply open up the side doors and find exactly what you need in full daylight. This door arrangement is also fantastic for palletised storage and gives superb access for forklifts.

Apart from storage, these side opening containers have been put to use for a variety of conversions. Mobile exhibition stands, cafes and retail outlets, boiler / generator rooms and even mobile stages have been made from them, as well as all sorts of specialist engineering solutions.

Custom made Side Opening Containers

At Budget Shipping containers we pride ourselves on helping people to find the most practical and cost-effective solution for any unusual storage requirement. We have all sorts of alternative side opening arrangements that can work just as well for you as the factory made side opening containers.

Personnel DoorsPersonnel Doors

The cheapest and most basic option would be to add one or more of our high security personnel doors into the side of a standard container. This will allow you to enter at either end (assuming the door is at the opposite end to the cargo doors), possibly saving a lot of time and effort when looking for a specific item. You can have 2 or more doors fitted if you wish, and we have these in all sorts of widths as well as double leaf or leaf and half options to accommodate carrying larger items or boxes. All our steel security doors have minimum 8 point locking systems and are highly resistant to attack. We can also add internal walls if required to divide the container into individual secure units.

Made to measure Container Storage Solutions

Sides cut outOur skilled fabricators and conversion yards can chop and change shipping containers to suit your exact needs. The only limit to what we can do is your imagination (and perhaps budget)!

We can put a series of full sized (8ft wide) doors down one or both sides of a container, we can produce custom doors that are even larger if you need to handle very large objects, we can even remove entire sides altogether for covered outdoor forklift access. A small selection of previously converted examples are below, this is just a sample of what we can offer, so please contact us to discuss your own unique requirements.

Factory Built alternatives to side opening shipping containers.

20ft tunnel blue20ft tunnel Containers

Tunnel containers come with double doors at each of the container.

Whereas a 20ft side opening container will open down the full side (meaning any gear you need to collect is maximum 8ft away), a tunnel container has the double cargo doors at each end (so your gear is maximum 10ft away from the doors). A one trip tunnel container will be significantly than a side opening container (whilst still looking similarly smart and neat, and offering a similar total lifespan). So for some customers with the right site / location for the container this is a very popular alternative.

Standard end opening containers

Standard shipping containers typically come with one set of double doors at one end only.

Standard end opening containers come into their own in price and value for the space you get. As the shipping lines all use this type of container to move their goods around the world, these are also available in huge numbers (and a very good price) as used equipment.

You can buy as many as 3 used end opening 20fts (all professionally checked and repaired before sale) at a similar overall price to a single one trip side opening container. Or you can buy 3 one trip standard end opening containers for less than the price of 2x 20ft side openers.

If your goods are going to be stored long term and not regularly rotated, a standard end opening container may offer better value for some customers and setups.

Converted shipping containers offering alternatives to side opening shipping containers:

Shipping Container with additional side doors

This used 20ft shipping container has been modified with two additional sets of 9ft wide doors into one of the long sides. There is no partition in the middle and the end doors are still operational. Cargo can be loaded in or out of any of the sets of doors as may be required. The lightweight fabricated doors allow for quicker and easier operation than a standard cargo doors – ideal for regular use. The doors are always constructed from steel that is at least as thick as the side walls on the container, so these remain very secure storage units. Rain guards are fitted above the doors to help prevent any water ingress, and the single locking bars allow for quick and easy opening.


20ft Side Door Shipping ContainerSide Door Shipping Container (Refurbished)

This refurbished container was modified from standard with sheet steel doors welded onto the side. These doors provides easy access to the goods inside and can be used in addition to the traditional end opening cargo doors. This arrangement makes them very flexible and possible to fit into most yard layouts. The doors on the side of the container are customised to include a steel rod, making the doors very secure indeed. As always these are guaranteed to be wind and watertight and are supplied ready for use. These 20ft side door shipping containers offer easy clear access from the side of the container and can often save well over £1000 over a new full side access container.

20ft Full Side Access Roller Shutter Shipping ContainerFull Side Access Roller Shutter Shipping Container

These 20ft roller shutter containers are constructed in either our Manchester or London depots and can either be manually or electrically operated. We can make these from one trip (new) or used containers.

These container units are refurbished with a fresh repaint in RAL colour of your choosing, a security lock box is fitted to the original container doors (which still operate) and then one side is removed. The shutter then can be fitted to the internal or external roof of the ex shipping container creating an additional access point. This particular unit in the pictures above was created for a London night club.

This is a great option for sites that have very large items they want to load and store that may not fit through smaller doors, for sites (eg markets) where you can’t easily have the doors open and fold away, and for customers wanting a ‘big reveal’ when they open up the container.

Curtain Sided Shipping ContainerCurtain Sided Shipping Container

A curtain sided container can be a good option for dry outdoor storage in a secure yard. The curtains are much easier to handle than heavy metal doors and are suitable for stacking on top of other containers. They have been utilised in forklift-access storage depots for palletised storage. Prices will vary for these depending on size and type of curtain required so please call us for a quote tailored to your specific requirements.

These are always made / modified to order, as original curtain-sided containers re often very old. Very few curtain sided containers are still used within the shipping industry. The curtain is not identical to the curtain on the side of a truck and operated slightly differently. if you fully lash the curtain each time (hook up every hole) then it will take one person about 10 minutes to open up or close the unit. for that reason this may be best for secure sites that want to access the goods inside occasionally. offer the UK’s largest online range of shipping containers for sale with a nationwide network of storage and conversion yards and crane equipped delivery vehicles.

If you need a shipping container feel free to browse our online range of shipping containers for sale, which also includes our ranges of flat pack sheds, container canopies and more. You can also call us on freephone 0808 1234 215 any time 9am – 7pm weekdays and our team will be happy to discuss your requirements. Alternatively, you can use our online shipping container quote form or request a telephone callback. In both cases we aim to get back to you within 1-2 working hours (may take longer for more detailed quotes).

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