Shipping containers come in various shapes, sizes and colors. It’s common to see a colorful collage of containers on vessels, at sea ports and even container depots. One cannot help but wonder why containers are painted in different colors.

The main reasons why shipping containers have different colors is for easier identification and brand association. That’s why you’re able to see that containers belonging to a particular shipping line will sport their brand colors. 

However, there are also containers that are painted in colors to represent the type of container rather than the shipping line or company it belongs to. In this article we will explore what factors determine the color of a container and the benefit of having colored containers. 

What Do the Different Shipping Container Colors Mean?

Companies who own shipping containers are able to freely decide on the color, logos or any other marking so long as it is ISO 6346 compliant. While it’s common for shipping lines to paint containers in their brand colors, there are also colors that are used for different types of containers. 

shipping container color
Maroon Leasing Container
shipping container color
White Reefer Container
shipping container color
Green Shipping Line Container

Maroon Containers

Containers that are brown or maroon in color are typically owned by leasing companies, who happen to own the majority of containers in the market. While there is no regulation stipulating that leasing companies need to paint their containers in these colors, it’s often used to indicate a container belonging to a leasing company. 

Container leasing companies such as Triton International, Textainer Group, Florens Container Leasing and several others paint their containers in a maroon color. 

White Containers

Containers that are white in color are mainly used for two reasons, they are either one-way containers or reefer containers. One-way containers are containers that are transported from an origin to a destination, without any other subsequent movement. 

On the other hand, reefer containers are also painted in white color. White color is often associated with “cold” or “ice” and is therefore a suitable identifier. 

Colored Containers 

When it comes to colored containers, there is no shortfall. It’s a common sight to see a wide range of container colors at ports, depots and even on vessels. These colors can range from yellow, red and green to magenta, grey, orange and various others.

Most shipping lines paint their containers in their brand colors for various reasons. The colors on their containers have no other reason than for marketing and brand association purposes. 

Benefits of Colored Shipping Containers

There are various reasons why shipping line containers are painted in a certain color – mainly for identification and association purposes. Let’s explore these benefits in a little more detail. 

  • Brand Association – Branding is important for every business, also for shipping lines. That is the reason why they typically paint and brand their containers with the company colors and logos. It’s to create brand association and awareness. 
  • Container Type Identification – Depots and facilities typically store containers according to their type. Different colored containers help operators identify reefer containers or containers belonging to certain shipping lines more easily, compared to checking the owner code on the container marking.
  • Rust Prevention – Shipping containers are covered with marine grade paint as it offers protection against harsh weather conditions, heavy usage and rust. Containers are also often repaired and repainted accordingly. 

Shipping Lines and Their Container Colors

Every carrier has their guidelines on how they brand their containers. Below, you’ll find a list of the container colors of the most popular shipping lines. 

Shipping LineContainer Color
Maersk LineLight Blue
Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC)Yellow
CMA CGMDark Blue
COSCOBlue / White
Ocean Network Express (ONE)Magenta
Evergreen Marine CorporationGreen
Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation (YML)White
Zim Integrated Shipping Services Maroon
Wan Hai LinesDark Blue
Pacific International Lines (PIL)Blue

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Gerrit Poel

Co-Founder & Writer
at freightcourse

About the Author

Gerrit is a certified international supply chain management professional with 16 years of industry experience, having worked for one of the largest global freight forwarders.

As the co-founder of freightcourse, he’s committed to his passion for serving as a source of education and information on various supply chain topics.