Whether it’s your first time opening a shipping container or not, it can be a bit of a challenge! Their design is unique and for those who’ve never opened one before – the process will be unfamiliar. But, not to worry; just follow our guide to learn the proper steps and you’ll see just how easy it can be.

Unlock the box

Should your container have a locking box, you’ll need the key to unlock the CISA padlock found inside a steel-welded lock box. This is located on the right side door. It is the first line in defense against someone trying to gain unauthorised entry.

Opened Shipping Container

Right to left

You’re going to start by opening the right door. There are two handles secured in their horizontal position by retainers. Pull up on these lock rod handles, and most likely once you exceed a 90 degree angle, you’ll feel the door start to give. Moving these handles allows the vertical rods to free from the cam keepers, unlocking the door.

Use your legs

Follow the same procedure for each handle on the left door. Once both doors are unlocked, you’ll want to position yourself to safely pull the heavy steel doors open. Grab both lock rod handles, which are now in the vertical position, and pull using your leg muscles to avoid stress to your back. You can start by pulling the right door, then the left.


If either door is stuck or seems to be resisting, it could be due to a few common reasons. First, you’ll want to be certain that the container is on level ground. Uneven positioning can cause stress on the rods or pressure against the doors. Weather can have its affects as well. Water and rust can cause the moving parts to get stiff, especially if exposed to the elements for a prolonged time without use. You may want to use a leverage tool specifically designed to get the lock rod handles moving if faced with this scenario. Bulging from shifting cargo can cause pressure on the rods and doors as well, in which case it may require a leverage tool to initially get the parts moving. Most of these issues will not come up with a well maintained container.

If there is any resistance when raising the handles, be careful and pay attention to any sounds coming from inside the container. Sometimes there may be weight against the door from cargo that has shifted. If this pressure causes the handles to feel stiff and firm in place, you want to be prepared in case poorly packed cargo pushes the door the rest of the way open once the latch is forced up.

Be patient

Do not yank aggressively against a stubborn handle. First, the rods, handles and cams are made to withstand the toughest conditions, so it won’t solve anything. Second, you’re likely to cause unwanted stress to your back muscles. Patience, following the correct technique, and using a leverage tool in case any weathering has stiffened parts are your best options for success.


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