When you’re moving freight that doesn’t require a 40-foot container, you might consider its smaller sibling, the 20-foot container.

However, when you’re moving freight to or from Alaska, 20-foot containers present some surprising challenges. In fact, many carriers are phasing them out. Additionally, because 20-foot containers aren’t cost effective and tend to move more slowly, you might want to consider another option.

In this article, we’ll explain more about why to reconsider using 20-foot containers for Alaska freight—and what alternatives are available. With this understanding, you’ll be able to maximize your efficiency, lower your costs, and keep your shipments moving with fewer delays.

#1: 20-Foot Containers Aren’t a Cost-Effective Solution

A 20-foot container holds about half the freight of a 40-foot container. As a result, you might expect that it would also cost about half as much. However, you might pay as much as 75% of the cost of a 40-foot container to ship a 20-foot one. (!)

20-Foot Containers vs. 40-Foot Containers


20-foot containers can hold ~50% of the freight of a 40-foot container


20-foot containers may cost 75% of the cost of a 40-foot container

What’s behind that high cost?

  • Because 20-foot containers require specialized equipment for loading, carriers may charge more to move them.
  • Additionally, you can simply get a better deal when you’re shipping a larger quantity. Think about it this way: When you buy a 24-pack of Coke, the price per can is lower than if you bought a six-pack. Buying freight offers similar parallels: The more you buy, the better rates you’re able to negotiate.

#2: 20-Foot Containers May Not Move Quickly

20-foot containers can also take longer to ship, especially if they need to move by rail.

Here’s why: 20-foot containers get loaded in pairs when traveling over rail. As 20-foot containers continue to decline in popularity and usage, it can be challenging for a 20-foot container to find the second half of its pair. If that happens, your container may sit in a rail yard for days—and possibly even for weeks.

If you need that freight fast, your only recourse might be to hire a truck to go in and retrieve that 20-foot container—at a significant cost.

As more carriers continue to discourage using 20-foot containers, this challenge will only grow, offering you a solid reason to consider alternatives.

And speaking of alternatives…

#3: There Are Simply Better Options Than 20-Foot Containers

When you’re shipping less-than-container load (LCL) freight to and from Alaska, a 20-foot container is by no means your only option. Instead, we suggest working with a logistics partner with experience in Alaska freight.

That logistics partner might be a freight forwarder who can, for example, sell you space within one of their consolidations. Rather than paying for a 40-foot container you won’t maximize or a 20-foot container that comes with its own set of challenges, you could essentially buy 20 feet of space within that forwarder’s consolidation. It will often be more cost-effective than a 20-foot container. It will move faster, too.

To sum it up, before you get your heart set on a specific method of moving your freight, reach out to an Alaska freight expert. They’ll run you through all your options and help you choose the right mix of cost and speed for your budget.

Finding the Right Alaska Freight Services

An experienced Alaska freight provider will be well-equipped to share a range of options for moving your cargo from origin to destination.

Be prepared to lay out:

  1. The type of freight you need moved
  2. Your budget
  3. Your desired timeline
  4. Any extra considerations, such as concerns about the security of your freight, special handling needed, etc.

All of these will help your freight expert design the right solution. Plus, if you keep an open mind about the “how,” you’ll free up your freight expert to find the right solution that addresses all of your concerns.

Looking for Alaska freight solutions?

We specialize in freight solutions for hard-to-ship items, including medical equipment, construction materials, heavy equipment, and more. We also go beyond port-to-port service. Alaska’s terrain can be challenging—but we know exactly how to get anything and everything to its final destination, wherever it needs to go in Alaska. Our team would be happy to talk to you about your next Alaska freight project. Reach out for a complimentary quote to get started.

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