In order to give you some information about using shipping containers for storage, we thought it best to get it directly from the expert; so we spoke to Patrick Hicks from the CSTA - Container Self-Storage & Traders Association to answer some of your questions.
Your recent report shows a big increase in UK self storage companies, sites and stock: Why do you think shipping containers are increasing in popularity for storage?
There are a number of reasons for the increase in demand for container self-storage. During Covid, many households took the opportunity to clear out their homes – and needed additional space to store their belongings. Also, people who were working from home required more room to accommodate their office-related equipment. We also gather that many businesses are moving away from more expensive premises for storing their equipment, preferring the size, security and convenience of a container. Generally, we also note that many people are increasingly trying to avoid throwing away their personal belongings, preferring to keep them and recycle or reuse them.
What is unique about a shipping container which makes it so suitable for storage?
Containers are built to standard international specifications, being robust and hard-wearing – as well as being waterproof, clean, secure and rodent-proof. They are designed for storing things in transit, and do the job just as well when stationary.
As for using them for self-storage facilities, compared to developing a “warehouse” self-storage facility, it is relatively easy to develop a container storage site. If an area of land is available, it is a lower cost option, with one or more containers procured and offered as an immediate storage option. Containers are considerably bigger than a comparable single warehouse unit – and there is easy access to the door, which is not possible with indoor storage facilities.
Are there things you shouldn't store in a shipping container?
The main things that are prohibited are dangerous or hazardous products, especially those which could catch fire - including petrol, fuel and oil based paint. Also, no plants or other live products can be stored.
Do I need to use a new shipping container for storage?
Age is not the main issue – new or used containers can be used. Containers have to be in good condition and meet the relevant strength criteria. They are deteriorated by “use”, rather than by “age” but of course need to be periodically maintained to prevent excessive corrosion.
Do I need planning permission to put a shipping container on my land for storage?
The requirement to have planning permission depends on the nature of the land and the size of the location where you are planning to place the container. Normally, you would need to go through the process of getting planning permission for any new extension or building, although some people (for example farmers) may have planning permission already to install additional buildings.
Do I need to do anything to prepare the land the shipping container will be on?
Land has to be correctly prepared when placing a container for storage. The land has to be free-draining and with a relatively hard surface. There also needs to be a hard, prepared, surface for vehicles to access the container.
What security do I need to protect my shipping container?
If I want my own, should I buy or lease my shipping container?
The decision to buy or lease depends on a number of factors. Usually, it makes sense to buy a container if it is a long-term project, while leasing might be more practical if it is for a short term storage. Leasing also has the benefit of avoiding any initial capital outlay.
What are the advantages of using a self-storage facility over having my own container?
If you want to have your own container, you will of course need to have your own space – and planning permission to install. The advantage of using a container self-storage facility is that you don’t need to have any space available.
Plus, someone else takes care of the maintenance of the container, the security of it and the site it is on, perhaps even with 24 hour security. You can easily upscale to a second container and back to a single container if your needs change, and if you decide you no longer need it altogether, you can simply clear out your belongings and not have to deal with selling and moving the shipping container that you no longer require.
What’s the most bizarre/interesting thing you've heard of being stored in your members’ containers?
We don’t really know what people put in their containers. But one example that I was given was a person who stored all their Christmas decorations in their container and only opened it twice a year – once to collect the decorations at the beginning of December, and once to return the decorations mid-January. For the rest of the year, it is not opened.
It sounds like they had a lot of Christmas decorations, Patrick! -DC.
The Container Self-Storage and Trader's Association promotes professionalism and good practice within the industries related to shipping container reuse; particularly in trading, self storage, innovation and shipping container conversion. When choosing a container self-storage facility, we highly recommend using one of their members.