ISO Container Inspection Checklists

Perform comprehensive container inspections with digital ISO checklists

safety officer performing iso container inspection|ISO Container Inspection|7-Point Technique|ISO Container Inspection Checklist|ISO Container Inspection Checklist

What is an ISO Container Inspection?

An ISO container inspection is a process of assessing the structural integrity of intermodal containers based on the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and Convention for Safe Containers (CSC) requirements. It aims to guarantee the durability of shipping containers before transporting cargo through multiple modes such as trucks, rail, or ships. Regular assessments, such as using container inspection checklists, can help prevent damages that can lead to more serious problems and incidents.

Safety officers use an ISO container inspection checklist to ensure compliance with international regulations, maximize the utilization of ISO containers during their life cycle, and prevent container fires.

5 Critical Checkpoints of ISO Container Inspections

While easily avoidable, container fires may occur on a weekly basis, and a major container ship fire can happen at sea roughly every 60 days. On the maiden voyage of the Maersk Honam, a fire broke out in one of 7,860 containers which caused the death of 5 crew members and an estimated total loss of $1 billion. 

Here are 5 critical checkpoints that safety officers should watch out for in ISO container inspections to prevent similar incidents from occurring:

1. ISO Identification

ISO 6346:1995 is the international standard for coding, identification, and marking of freight containers. It specifies a physical presentation of marks on the ISO container to identify its size and type and verify the accuracy of its use. The ISO mark should be clearly displayed on the upper right corner and roof of the shipping container.

2. CSC Plate

An ISO container should undergo static longitudinal restraint, concentrated loads, and stacking tests to be approved for transport under customs seal and gain CSC safety approval. Usually located on the exterior doors, the combined data plate should be a permanent, non-corrosive, fireproof rectangular plate with alphanumeric characters of proportionate width and thickness stamped into, embossed on, or indicated on its surface.

3. 7-Point Technique

Safety officers should follow the 7-point visual inspection method in checking the condition of shipping containers before transit. Keep an eye out for the condition of these intermodal container parts: 

7-Point Technique

4. Cargo

Improper cargo lashing, especially for dangerous goods, can lead to container fires as cargo moves or is damaged inside the ISO container during transit. Safety officers should inspect the cargo before and after packing and the cargo holds before and after loading.

5. Shipping Documents

One of the leading causes of container fires is misdeclared cargo. Safety officers should examine shipping documents and confirm the consistency of the commercial invoice, packing list, and bills of lading to the actual cargo inside the ISO container.

How to Efficiently Inspect ISO Containers

When transporting products, businesses and shipping companies—may they be internal or third-party, aim to ensure that products will safely arrive from their origin to their final destination. To assist with that, regular inspections should be conducted, particularly on the containers of the products. 

Take note of the following instructions to perform a comprehensive and reliable container inspection procedure:


Before anything else, establish which specific container is to be inspected. Then mention other important information such as the name of the inspector, date and location of inspection, and country or place of origin of the shipment. 

Make sure that the container is empty before starting the actual inspection.


Next, examine the container from the outside. Things to look out for include defects, damages, alarming stages of rust, and other signs of deterioration. Go through each external aspect of the container and assess if it’s a pass or fail. Add necessary notes or create immediate actions for failed ones. 


Lastly, do a comprehensive review of the inside of the container. Similar to the exterior inspection, keep an eye out for damages, leaks, and cracks, as well as suspicious odors that might be caused by cleaning materials or other chemical residues. For reefer containers or those that need their temperatures regulated, check the temperature controls and make sure that they are working properly.

Record all these using a pre-existing ISO container inspection checklist or template so that it’s properly documented, efficient, and easy to track for future reference.

What is an ISO Container Inspection Checklist?

An ISO container inspection checklist is a pre-made document that businesses, safety officers, and third-party shipping services can use when assessing a container. Not only does it provide all the important information you need, but it also guides you through the entire process of the inspection—preventing you from missing any critical areas and aspects while inspecting.

Through the use of ISO container inspection checklists, businesses can determine whether a shipping container is durable and safe for product transportation.

What to Include

The format of an ISO container inspection checklist can vary depending on the business, but its contents are generally very similar. It mainly consists of the following items:

  • Container number
  • Shipper
  • Name of inspector
  • Date of inspection
  • Country/place of origin
  • Undercarriage
  • Doors
  • Left side
  • Right side
  • Front wall
  • Floor
  • Roof

FAQs About Container Inspections

ISO containers are intermodal transportation devices that are manufactured according to the specifications set by the International Standards Organization. Since they are mainly used to transport products and goods, they should ideally withstand extreme weather conditions and other structural challenges throughout their usable life.

According to International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) CSC, the initial inspection should be performed before a new container is certified and put into use. The next one should be within five years from the date of construction and at least once every 30 months in the succeeding years. Businesses performing regular assessments, however, can ensure its durability, safety, and security before each use.

The first three letters in the container code, also known as the owner prefix code, are a set of letters unique to the owner of the specific container. It is registered with the International Container Bureau and is used to identify which business the container belongs to.

Jona Tarlengco
Article by

Jona Tarlengco

SafetyCulture Content Specialist
Jona Tarlengco is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2018. She usually writes about safety and quality topics, contributing to the creation of well-researched articles. Her years of experience in one of the world’s leading business news organisations helps enrich the quality of the information in her work.

Explore more templates

Intermodal Container Inspection Checklist
An intermodal container inspection checklist aims to maximize the utilization of intermodal containers during their life cycle through the 7-point visual inspection technique. After specifying the shipper and country of origin, check all 7 points of the intermodal container and complete the inspection with a digital signature. This intermodal container inspection checklist has been designed to make it easier for inspectors to ensure that the intermodal container is structurally sound, weather-tight, has no false compartments and contains no hidden materials.
Cargo Inspection Checklist
A cargo inspection checklist is used to verify that the cargo inside an intermodal container aligns with what was declared in shipping documents. Start by indicating the vessel name, loading port and container number. Use this cargo inspection checklist to complete shipping documents, check the container before and after packing the cargo and inspect the cargo hold prior to loading. Provide additional observations and validate the cargo inspection with a digital signature.
Container Loading Inspection Checklist
This container loading inspection checklist is designed to make it easier for auditors to perform a pre-loading inspection and ensure the shipping container is ready for exporting products. Use this checklist to document the container loading procedure with photos—from the empty container to both container doors shut with the seal. With a quality assurance officer or leading hands sign off, you can demonstrate the product quality is approved for export.
Empty Container Inspection Procedure Checklist
This empty container inspection procedure checklist is used by cargo supervisors or shipping personnel to assess the shipping container’s quality and condition before loading the cargo. Use this checklist to inspect the outside and inside of the empty container before packing and check the cargo and container after packing to prevent damage in transit. Take pictures of the CSC plate, container number, potential container damage, cargo packing, and sealed container.