ISO 6346 is an internationally recognized standard that describes the identification of a shipping container. It is maintained by the BIC (International Container Office) and covers the serial number, owner, country code and size of any given shipping container. This code can be seen at the top right of all the external panels of a container. In the 20-foot container shown in the image, you can see the container number on the top (4 letters followed by 7 numbers) and below it is the 4-digit ISO code.
The ISO code for a shipping container is an essential tool for any shipping company that wants to know the ISO code. Intermodal transport of cargo in containers requires that containers are marked according to ISO 6346. This ensures that computer systems can correctly identify equipment and deliver cargo, since they require names that comply with ISO 6346. An owner can request more than one code, since normally the first two letters are used as the owner code and the third is used to indicate the group. All ISO codes of shipping containers will appear among the information printed in the upper right part of the container doors when viewed from outside, as well as in the upper right part of side panels, below the container number. The United States Railroad Association recognizes similar codes for containers and trailers that travel by train across North America, although they lack control digits and are not recognized by BIC.
Since identification according to ISO 6346 has become a requirement in international customs conventions, many customs administrations have begun to validate that containers are marked according to this standard. It is highly recommended to follow ISO 6346 standard, since its absence causes problems for both carriers and container terminals when it comes to correctly identifying equipment and delivering cargo.