What is TEU in international shipping?

TEU shipping refers to the measurement of a ship’s cargo container carrying capacity. Learn about TEU shipping, its capacity, and the types of containers.
TEU shipping
In the shipping process, TEU – 20-feet Equivalent Unit size – is a standard unit of measurement used in shipping to describe the carrying capacity of container ships and terminals. TEU is usually the volume of a standard 20-foot shipping container, which is commonly used to transport goods across the world.

What is Terminal Handling Charges (THC)?

TEU is a commonly used unit of measurement in international shipping, which represents the volume of a standard 20-foot shipping container and describes the carrying capacity of container ships and terminals. The use of TEUs has become an industry standard to calculate shipping volumes, enabling more efficient handling and transportation of goods. For example, a container ship with a capacity of 5,000 TEUs is capable of transporting 5,000 20-foot containers1.

What is TEU container shipping used for?

TEU containers allow shipping companies to better plan their operations and optimize the use of their assets. By knowing the exact number of TEUs a container ship can carry, shipping companies can calculate the cost of shipping, allocate space for different types of cargo, and schedule vessel departures and arrivals. TEU container shipping is used for transporting a range of goods, including consumer goods, electronics, raw materials, and food products. The use of containers also allows for faster loading and unloading of cargo, reducing the turnaround time of vessels at ports.

How are the TEUs used for measuring?

The number of TEUs a container ship can carry depends on the size of the vessel and the amount of space allocated for cargo. For example, a container ship with a capacity of 10,000 TEUs can transport 10,000 standard 20-foot containers.

Types of TEU containers

There are several types of TEU containers used in shipping, including standard 20-foot containers, high cube containers, 40-foot containers, and refrigerated containers. Below are some of the common types3:

High cube containers:

High cube containers are similar to standard containers but are taller, allowing for more storage space.

40-feet containers:

40-feet containers are twice the length of 20-foot containers and can hold more cargo.

Refrigerated containers:

Refrigerated containers are designed to transport goods that require temperature control, such as fresh produce or pharmaceuticals.

How is TEU ratio calculated?

The TEU ratio is a measure of a port’s container handling capacity. It is calculated by dividing the port’s total annual container throughput (measured in TEUs) by the port’s maximum theoretical capacity (also measured in TEUs). The maximum theoretical capacity is based on factors such as number of berths, size of the quay, and number of cranes. The TEU ratio provides an indication of how efficiently a port is operating and whether it has room for further expansion. A lower TEU ratio suggests that a port is operating close to its maximum capacity, while a higher ratio indicates potential for growth.


TEU and FEU are both units of measurement used in the shipping industry. TEU stands for 20-foot Equivalent Unit, and FEU stands for 40-foot Equivalent Unit. While TEUs are a more commonly used unit, FEUs are used to measure container ship capacity and terminal throughput. The choice of which unit to use depends on the cargo being transported and the size of the ship.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of a TEU container?
A TEU container is used in the transportation and storage of goods.
How many TEUs are in a container ship?
This depends on the size of the ship.
How much shipping capacity is a TEU container?
A TEU container has a capacity of a 20-foot standard container volume.
How many TEU are in a 40-feet container?
There are two 20-foot equivalent units (2 TEUs) in a 40-feet container.
Published on April 14, 2023.


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