Stuck Shipping Container Doors: Should they be Forced Open?

loading docks

Would the thought of using a crow bar on your car door ever cross your mind? Probably not, even if it was stuck frozen shut on a cold winter morning. Quite often the solution used to open up a stuck shipping container door is to use the ‘brute force’ method to open it.

Forcing shipping container doors can injure workers and damage cargo. Both of these typically occur when frustration with a stuck door takes over the rational attempts to open it.

Why Will the Doors Not Open?

There are a few different reasons a shipping container door might not open.

  • Bent Frames: Shipping containers act as a single unit to distribute the weight of the cargo. Because of that, a frame that is slightly twisted, or racked, can cause pressure on a door that will not allow it to open.

These types of issues can occur during transit and can be caused by damage to the shipping container as well as shifting cargo. A simple inspection of the cargo container should reveal if the doors are improperly aligned due to racking.

  • Conditions of Hinge Pins: Container doors are held in place by heavy duty, bladed pins. Since these pins are made of metal, the can sometimes corrode during overseas shipping. Inspect the hinge pins to see if there are signs of rust that could be preventing them from operating properly.
  • Damaged Gaskets: Shipping container doors are sealed with gaskets. These gaskets prevent water from entering the shipping container during shipment. Gaskets are constructed to be flexible to handle stresses during shipment. If they are damaged, they can become stuck and inflexible, preventing the door from opening properly.

Finding stuck gaskets can be more difficult, as they are typically hidden from sight when the doors are closed.

  • Ice Buildup: Just like your car door, sometimes water can get trapped in door jambs and frozen. This ice buildup will prevent the door from opening properly. Cold weather and refrigerated cargo containers can cause this problem.

Stiff Operation Can Indicate Problems

Shipping container doors are designed to be opened easily. While it might go unnoticed, doors that open stiffly could also be an indication of issues. The doors are designed to open with properly aligned hinge pins. Anything that might throw that alignment off can cause the door to operate stiffly. If you find stiff operation during loading or unloading, you might want to inspect your hinges and frame to ensure they are aligned properly.

Forcing the Door Open with a Crow Bar or Fork Truck

Attempting to force a door open can cause problems. Looking at the causes above, forcing a stuck door could, in a worst case scenario, cause the entire container to collapse in on itself. If you are having issues opening your containers, it might be necessary to contact shipping container professionals.

Cratex Group are experts at shipping and industrial packing services. Contact us for all of your shipping container needs.