Is the colour of a shipping container important?

By: Pakarada Premtitikul
General Manager
InterDry (Thailand) Co., Ltd.

Does the colour of a shipping container affect the relative humidity inside?

Steel is currently the most used in the construction of containers despite its poor insulation properties. This is because it is cheap in production and maintenance. Another factor is that it is very suitable to absorb the mechanical forces acting on a container. The colour of the paint on the exterior of the container has an impact on the internal container temperature during sunlight. For a better picture of the impact on the container I will show you two colour charts reflecting the temperature changes in a white and a brown container during the course of one day.

The chart below shows the temperature in different places within a white container and outside each hour of the day. The temperature varies between 40 ° C near the roof and 28 ° C near the floor with an outside temperature of about 28 ° C at noon. During the night, the temperature of the air in the container is about 12 ° C at an outside temperature of 15 ° C.

Figure 1: The temperature at different places in a white container at every hour of the day.

A similar study was done with a container with a brown color. There were much higher temperature differences measured. A measurement at midday found a temperature of about 50 ° C near the roof and 35 ° C near the container floor with an outside temperature of 25 ° C.

During the night the air inside and outside the container had similar temperatures, fluctuating around 15 ° C. These measurements are in the chart below

Figure 2: The temperature at different places in a brown container at every hour of the day.

The colour of a container indeed affects the internal temperature. Previous charts showed that a dark container has a temperature increase of about 10 ° C more with the same outdoor temperature (27 to 28 ° C). The relative humidity can change from 80% for example to about 50% which can cause a great hygroscopic imbalance. It also comes with a larger cooling. All the humidity extracted from the goods into the container internal air to balance the hygroscopic imbalance due to the temperature rise in the afternoon will condensate during the drastic drop in temperature in the evening.

The figure below shows an estimate of the occurrence of certain container colour. This estimate resulted from the assumption that the size of the container capacity of 10 major container liners is approximately equivalent to the size of the total number of containers that are transported. And that the container liners only transport using their own containers. Even though bright colours like white, gray and yellow are popular, darker colours like dark blue and even green are also relatively common.


Figure 3: Percentage of container colour occurrence.