Source: adapted from Crinks, P. (2000) Container Usage Asset Management in the Global Container Logistics Chain, International Asset Systems.
Containers are built to be durable since they can be exposed to all possible conditions, from tropical to subarctic. They are also subject to potential damage when loaded, unloaded, transshipped, or carried. Additionally, what a container carries could also be damaging to its structure with spills and shocks. The lifespan of a container ranges between 10 to 15 years depending on its level of usage and the conditions it has been exposed to. A well-maintained container not exposed to harsh conditions can even have a lifespan of up to 20 years, but this is uncommon. Still, a container can spend on average 56% of its lifespan either idle or being repositioned while empty. This represents a non-revenue generating part involving additional costs (such as storage and repositioning) that are assumed either by the shipping or the leasing company. Such a cost is thus part of the leasing rate and of the full transportation cost. Growing trade imbalances can have a notable impact as more containers will spend additional time idle or being repositioned. About 20% of all the containers carried by maritime transportation are empties, implying that they are complex assets to effectively manage.