How to Vent a Shipping Container

Written by michelle hickman
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How to Vent a Shipping Container
Shipping containers need to be ventilated to protect workers' safety before they unpack goods. (container ship express image by feisty from

Companies have metal containers transported by tractor trailer, rail cars and sea vessels to ship goods to customers. These shipping containers come in sizes of 20 to 50 feet in length and 8 to 10 feet in height. Companies can ship goods such as food, manufacturing parts and rare antiques. At times, shipping containers are fumigated with methyl bromide to prevent pests from entering. Since methyl bromide can negatively affect the central nervous system to create symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, tremors and speech defects, shipping containers must be properly ventilated before unpacking to maintain the safety and health of workers.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Inquire if the container had been fumigated prior to unpacking. Check for warning notices and clearance certificates. Assume the container was fumigated if you are unsure about its packing protocols.

  2. 2

    Provide good ventilation by placing the container in a designated open area. Erect barricades with warning signs around the entrance to warn people about the hazards of unauthorised access. Open the container and use either extraction or blowing mechanical ventilation for 30 minutes depending on the type of goods.

  3. 3

    Ventilate the container naturally if mechanical ventilation cannot be used. Take a test sample of the container's air using suitable air testing equipment such as a halogen leak detector, an electronic instrument or a gas detector. Evaluate whether the methyl bromide level is below the 5 ppm (parts-per-million) exposure standard so workers can safely enter the container. Partially unpack the container if the goods are tightly stored and allow for further venting for short time periods. Repeat the unpacking process until completed.

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