How To Properly Secure Your Shipping Container

Storage containers are expensive investments for many, with their contents often being even more valuable. Unfortunately, criminals know this and are more than happy to steal contents or even the containers themselves. There are numerous reports of this happening, and in many cases, the victims could have prevented the crimes and property loss with a few simple security measures and protocols. It is always a good idea to learn from others' mistakes, especially when thousands of dollars in goods are on the line.

Alternatively, if you are not storing goods in a container but are instead storing valuable equipment and machinery, that is all the more reason to increase security and make sure that your containers are safe. This loss could set a project back indefinitely and cost your business thousands. We are sure you know the value of your equipment.

Therefore, we wanted to share some information and tips on how to secure your container and its contents better so that your business does not have to deal with the loss and you can have some more peace of mind.

1. Locking Down the Container

You probably do not want to have people come in, see an unlocked container, open the door, and walk away with whatever is inside. You will want to make sure the container is locked and secured, and with more than a simple padlock. Locks that come with the container might be effective on a basic level, but you can be confident that career criminals have already figured out the secrets behind those locks.

Therefore, you may wish to invest in a better lock for your container. There are different models available, but you will naturally want to find something that cannot be easily picked, easily cut, or easily damaged. An investment in a good lock is a worthwhile one, and you can use it for years if treated and chosen properly. A few to look into include:

  • A monoblock lock, otherwise known as a straight shackle lock. It is heavy, weatherproof (necessary for long periods outdoors), and can repel all but the most powerful efforts. Thieves might as well try to punch through the corrugated steel.
  • A puck lock, which has internal shackles, hidden screws and generally will have a rust-proof coating to prevent deterioration over time.
  • For the shipping portion, a roll door lockbox can also be helpful, as these locks are designed for roll-up doors. It may not apply to your shipping container, but it is worth a look.

More good news is that a steel container is a large, heavy, and cumbersome container to maneuver compared to other thefts. As long as someone is around, a container being opened will be heard. Trying to break through any of the locks listed above will attract a lot of attention. These containers do not go missing easily, and you can protect their cargo. It just requires a bit of an investment ahead of time.

2. Keeping It Secure in Transit

Your container can be vulnerable while in transit. It is not likely to be in danger of criminal activity on the highway or a ship, but perhaps while at one of its stops, someone could break in or run off with the truck.

The most important thing is making sure thieves cannot remove the container from the truck easily. Also, that the truck is never left running (or with the keys in) and unattended at any time. Ideally, the keys to the truck should never be at risk of being stolen either.

A lapse in transport security means that the cargo is left open, unattended, and vulnerable. If the container is open and no one is around, no one is likely to drive off with it, but someone might grab a box or two and runoff. If it's unattended for a long time, someone might come back for more or bring their car. It is much easier for criminals to get away with this kind of theft.

Additionally, while it is improbable that anyone will hijack or otherwise steal the truck with the shipping container on it (unless it contains extremely valuable cargo), make sure either your employees or (more likely) the shipping company have protocols for this situation. Naturally, you should put human life above all else, but methods for quick recovery of the property are useful.

Ultimately, much of this is out of your hands except for who you employ and work with. Make sure you vet any drivers or shipping companies on their security and their professionalism. There are best practices, and they should know them.

3. Keeping It in a Safe Place

The best way to make sure that your container remains safe is that it remains in a safe place. A yard with other containers with security measures is a great option, as is a warehouse to the same effect. Keeping your container with other containers, while potentially attracting more criminals with the potentially higher payout, also allows for security centralization. Investments in security make more sense in such cases.

If you have a warehouse accessible, a lot that is already secure, or any other safe place, consider keeping your shipping container there, at least while it still has goods to unload or equipment to store safely. Of course, you will want to ensure that the location stays secure and that you do not become lax on security because you think the warehouse is an impenetrable fortress. Also, make sure employees are not easily able to steal (more on that later).

Also, try to keep the container out of sight of the general public. Sticking it out in the middle of the open isn't a good idea; no one will steal from a container they do not know about.

4. Deterrents

The appearance of security is just as crucial as whatever actual security measures you have. No one is going to steal from you or mess with your container if it appears impossible to do so or merely too difficult to be worth the effort or risk. Taking advantage of this is key in security, and making a criminal overlook your property is much easier than having it guarded 24/7.

You will need to balance how much you are deterring criminals and how much you are notifying them of your security measures. Perhaps a "this location is secured by X" sign is better than a message saying, "dear potential criminals, our cameras are right here." You will need to use your better judgment, based on your exact measures and your situation.

If a crime does occur, it might be best to prosecute to show that you will take action against those that steal from you. This is more common a tactic for small businesses than container owners, but it remains an option for anyone interested in security. However, there is a balance to this, and we understand that other factors might be in play when you make your decision.

5. Keep a Digital Eye on Them

Cameras, even relatively high-quality cameras, are not all that expensive anymore. You can find a camera you can place near the container for less than $100. If outdoors, you might want to buy special housing or cameras specifically designed for the outdoors. Just make sure they are correctly hooked up and that you (or a member of your team) have a way of checking them or connecting to them quickly. In the age of the Internet of Things, this should be relatively easy.

You could also find models or devices that allow you to track your container and/or its contents by GPS. While expensive depending on the device, it can be reused and provide some of the best peace of mind available. Try to keep such a device in a hidden location, or use several of them, as criminals will logically try to get rid of them or remove them upon discovery, and even use them to throw authorities on the wrong trail.

6. Hiring Security

Hiring a professional security firm to keep an eye on your container probably does not make much budgetary sense for most containers and businesses. However, if you are anxious about a threat and have some costly goods being stored in that container, investing in security personnel might be worth it. Only you can make that determination and how much you are willing to spend. Just note that a steel container might not be the best choice after a certain point, and instead, you might want something more inherently secure.

That being said, if you do hire security, make sure you hire a firm or employees that are reputable, competent, and reliable. Make sure that not only your container is guarded, but the rest of your property as well. While it is unlikely you will run into a problem, you do not want the wolves guarding the shipping container full of frozen chicken. Rely on reputation, and do not be afraid to check in and ask questions. Be forthright about what you are looking for. Any worthwhile firm will be able to respond professionally and will understand your concerns.

7. Keeping It Safe from Employees

We are not saying that you should be suspicious of your employees or be overly restrictive. Yet, there is something to be said about making sure that your employees do not steal from your containers or do anything that would be criminal. The truth is that you are at a far greater risk of internal theft than external theft, especially in the case of easily stolen goods in containers. Containers might be away from everything else, and as such, giving the impression that they are not watched as closely.

Note suspicious behavior, and keep logs of every step in the process. You likely perform checks and have systems in place already. Between these things and your intuition, you should be able to keep your shipping containers (and the goods or equipment in them) safe. If you feel industrious regarding security, you can perform an internal security audit across your entire company.

If an employee is going to handle or work with your shipping container, they should be trustworthy or be working directly under or alongside someone who is. Similarly, any company you work with should also be trustworthy, and their employees should be beyond reproach. You cannot check every employee, but you can check a company's reputation and get guarantees when possible. You may feel comfortable working with a company, but can you say the same about every employee who works for them? Vet whatever you can.

8. Keep It Sturdy

All the locks and secure doors in the world will not do any good if your container is compromised in other ways. A criminal will be happy to pull your container apart if they see something of an opening or weak point, such as a hole caused by rust or corrosion. Being made of metal, this can occur over time if protective measures are not in place. While the other steps are vital, so is this one, and learning how you can prevent damage can not only protect your goods but protect the investment of the container itself (which you know is not cheap).

We recommend either getting a corrosion-resistant container from the get-go or treating your container with a paint (or similar product), which will add a layer of protection. New containers might be treated already, but older ones might need some maintenance.

9. Alarm Systems

If a shipping container is off in the distance, rarely used, or necessitates it for another reason, you can have an alarm system installed. Most criminals will not think ahead and imagine that a normal-looking container has such a system and be in for a nasty surprise should they try anything. We recommend this for shipping containers with valuable goods inside that will likely be stationary for a while.

As for the model to use, that will generally be up to you or whoever you put in charge of security. A security system installed in a container can theoretically do anything that an average consumer or business alarm system can, whether that involves notifying you, a security company, or the police if it goes off. Other decisions, such as whether the alarm is silent or not, is up to you.

10. Meticulous Recordkeeping

A measure related to most of the other ones listed here but deserving of clear discussion is that everything related to your shipping container should be clearly recorded. Are goods being loaded or unloaded onto the container? It should be recorded. Is the container being moved? Record it with specific times and reasonings. In truth, some of the recordkeeping might seem silly, but should there be a problem or confusion, you will be glad it is there. Knowledge leads to security.

This level of recordkeeping (and ideally checking of that recordkeeping) may be concerning to some in that it might take too much time. However, suppose it is built into the systems and processes of your business? Then it should not reduce efficiency and may improve it. You may be able to compare metrics and notice changes in productivity (in part, depending on your tracking). You may be able to invest in digital tools to aid with records if you haven't got them in place already.

What About Insurance?

Some people might want to insure their shipping container and its contents, either for a limited time or as part of a more comprehensive insurance policy. Doing so can make complete sense for many businesses used to working with those policies.

If an insurance policy makes sense for your business and is affordable, you should move forward with one. If the insurance company makes recommendations regarding your container's security, we also recommend you take them. They have a vested interest in keeping that container secure and will nearly always give you the correct security advice.


The exact security requirements of your container will, of course, vary depending on what you are shipping, the size of your business in general, what insurance policies you might have, and additional factors. Take all of these into account when you determine your measures, and do not take the above advice in a vacuum. Using every single measure listed above can certainly be overkill and far too expensive. Take a calm and measured approach when making a security plan for your containers or any of your property.

Only you and a select few others likely have all the information necessary to make the right decision. We wish you the best of luck and that you can implement these measures easily and quickly.