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  • Writer's pictureJodie

Flat Rack or Open Top?

Do you have an oversized, irregular shaped cargo that does not fit in 20’ Ft or 40'Ft container and need to be exported/imported to/from other country? Are you in a dilemma where can’t decide which option is better or right for you? Bewildered by the differences between Flat rack or Open top? Hopefully after this comparison, the answer will be clear.

What is Flat rack ?

Flat racks are used to move cargo which are in a unique dimension which cannot be loaded into containers with fixed sides or walls. Flat racks come in two different sizes: 20ft and 40ft. These containers are well known for their high load capacity of up to 24,000kg(20'ft) to 28,000kg(40'ft)

Compared to normal containers, the loading & unloading process in Flat rack are much easier as they don’t have side walls neither top wall. Unique sized cargo are loaded with the aid of cranes or forklift, depending on the weight of the cargo. In Malaysia, low loader is required to move a Flat Rack and lashing report need to be provided to the shipping line. These may eventually makes the cost to transport unique cargo to be higher compared to other containers.

Flat racks will be an ideal solution to carry overweight cargo due to the flat racks bedding structure. Flat racks are designed in such way, where their main strength lies in the bottom rails. The weight of cargo must be distributed evenly through the Flat Rack’s bottom, and this need to be done with the expertise advise.

Dimension of Flat Rack

Now let’s have a look on the dimensions of the flat racks. The specifications below are representative for the majority of flat rack containers as it may vary depending the container manufacturer and the owner. Please don’t hesitate to call us, if you need more clarification on the container dimension, as we are always here to assist you.

***subject for shipping line approval

SOLAS Requirement

Complying to SOLAS regulation, any cargos that is transported via flat racks will be surveyed by a third party surveyor for the lashing report in order to make sure the container is seaworthy and safe to be on vessel . The lashing report need to be provided to the shipping lines .The survey is carried out to make sure the safety of crew and vessel is under control. The shipping lines might reject the flat racks loading onto the vessel if the stowage and/or securing of cargo does not meet SOLAS requirement.

What is Open Top ?

The frequently asked question: How different is open top container is from flat rack?

Open Top containers also comes in 20 ft and 40 ft sizes and it is usually used to transport over-height cargo cannot be easily loaded through the door and needs to be loaded from the top such as pipes or steels with the aid of cranes. Open Top looks similar like normal 20ft or 40ft container. The main difference is the top part of the container is covered with PVC tarpaulin cover instead of solid roof like normal container.

These containers also come with lashing rings to minimize the movement of cargo. Open Top container will be the ideal way to move a lengthy cargo in gauge, if you want easier loading options and more space at the top. Open-top in gauge container can be transported via normal haulage truck or low loader, depending on the size, eight and length of a cargo. Movement of cargo via open top container is much more cheaper than Flat Rack, as it doesn't require any additional survey report.

Dimension of Open Top Container

***subject for shipping line approval

So, should I use Flat Rack or Open Top?

Flat Racks provide high payloads and the opportunity to load cargoes from top or side. The unique design of flat-rack containers allows the transportation of items that are heavy and bulky, and those which are over-width and/or over-height , or in a simple way, out of gauge cargo.

However, if the cargo which is purely over height and within the gauge, it is recommended to use Open Top Containers compared Flat Racks, as the Ocean Freight for Open Top containers are quite lesser compared to Flat racks. As the name suggests, these cargo containers have an open top, enabling heavy items to be easily loaded via an mobile crane. Once loaded, a trap is used to cover the roof and contents of the container.


Contact us :

Contact us for advice on the right container for your needs. We have a team of expertise with years of experience handling project shipments for decades, we are here to ship your cargo up to your requirement. Set an appointment with our experts today and let us help you pick the right equipment transport vehicle for your business. Call us on +6019-387 3128 or send us an email at

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