Shipping Container Auctions: Reality TV vs. Reality

Recently there has been a huge surge in popularity for reality TV shows in which participants bid on auctions for abandoned storage containers in the hope of selling whatever they find inside to make a profit. From these types of shows, TruTV’s Container Wars was born, which followed participants bidding on shipping containers in a similar way.

These shows are often a little too farfetched to be named “reality” shows, however auctions like this actually exist in reality and have been going on for years. But why have these shipping containers been abandoned, and what can be found inside? These questions and more will be answered as we take a deeper look into the shipping container auction industry.



Why the Containers have been Abandoned

Once a cargo ship has unloaded its cargo at the port, it is the responsibility of the container’s owner to pick it up. Before the containers can be picked up, any taxes or fees associated with the importation of the goods must be paid. These taxes and fees can often add up to huge amounts of money and may even be greater than the value of the container’s goods. In these cases, the owner will often just refuse to pay the taxes and fees and just leave the container at the port.

Other reasons that containers may be abandoned are that the containers’ owner may have gone bankrupt or there was a delay in the transportation resulting in the goods no longer being needed.

Because of the large amount of containers abandoned in ports, port authorities started auctioning off the containers in order to clear space and make back money lost in the storage of the containers.


Before Going To Auction

Thankfully for those who own shipping containers (and those who have to put effort into auctioning them off) a shipping container isn’t put to auction right after its owner decides not to pay to have it released. In usual circumstances, the owner will have 20 days to claim the container and remove it from port.

If after 20 days the cargo is still in port the owner is notified of the situation and the container is moved to a warehouse. Here the owner will have to pay for the storage and transfer costs, as well as the original taxes and fees for importing the cargo in the first place. After six months in the warehouse the cargo will finally be put to auction and the money raised from this will go towards paying for the costs the cargo has picked up along its way.



The Auction

If you were to believe TruTV, the shipping container auctions are very exciting events involving several teams battling it out to make a profit. The participants bid large amounts of money and win items such as cars, antiques and other big-ticket items. The shows depict the auctions as intense, and a lot more interesting than the reality of shipping container auctions.

Away from the cameras and reality TV treatment, the auctions are a lot more civilised and a whole lot less interesting. The auctioneers, usually either customs or the port authority, will contact a small group of people known to participate in the auctions. These people will then bid on the containers, usually knowing what is inside, for large amounts of money.

The TV show would have people believing that anyone could visit one of these auctions but this is certainly not the case. The auctions are not widely advertised so that only a select few can bid on the cargo. The containers often go for a lot more than most people could afford to bid too, with some going for thousands of pounds. Even if a person could afford to bid on these containers, there is a huge risk that the contents of the container won’t sell for much and the winner would make a loss.



Thankfully, most containers don’t go to auction and are used for a wide range of purposes. If you need to hire a shipping container then look no further than us. We at Flintham Cabins provide the best service in steel container hire, allowing you all the benefits of using a container without the commitment of purchasing one. If you would like more information, don’t hesitate to contact us on 020 8459 6972 and a member of our team will be happy to help.

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