Container Identification System

I had a customer call me today to ask for help in registering his intermodal equipment with the international community. I thought it would be worthwhile to post some information on here to help others that might be looking for help with the same thing. If you are conducting business on an international level, and even domestically moving containers, chassis, or ISO tank containers, it is important that you register an unique identifier with the correct authority. In the case of intermodal equipment, this is the International Container Bureau (BIC – Bureau International des Containers). This is the legal entity you must contact to register your number. All containers have a four digit alpha prefix followed by a six digit numeric prefix with a single digit check digit.

The container identification system specified in DIN EN ISO 6346 consists solely of the elements shown, which can only be used together:

  • owner code, consisting of three capital letters
  • product group code, consisting of one of capital letters U (containers), J (for detachable freight container-related equipment) or Z (trailers and chassis)
  • six-digit registration number
  • check digit

This systems ensures each piece of intermodal equipment can be traced to its correct owner which enables the following:

It permits :

  • the identification of the owner or principal operator
  • the identification of the unit by its owner or operator as reference number for its data base (dimensions, type, year of putting into operation, date of control, of maintenance, etc..).

It facilitates

  • the international circulation and temporary admission for customs purpose,
  • the control of containers, manually or automatically by computerised and/or remote control systems at any stage of the transportation chain and especially in intermodal transport.

It is accepted by :

  • the World Customs Organization and a number of Customs Administrations of which it facilitates the task in relation with the Customs Convention on Containers, the TIR convention, etc.., (WCO)
  • the International Road Transport Union (IRU)
  • the International Union of Railways (UIC),
  • the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS),
  • the International Air Transport Association (IATA),
  • the International Federation of International Removers (FIDI),

It is used :

in 115 countries by about 1700 owners or operators representing more than 90 % of the world container fleet

To see if the owner code or alpha prefix you desire is available, go to the following link I hope this is useful for those of you out there, and good luck in obtaining the owner code you desire! Please contact me at for further information, or visit our website at

Special thanks to the BIC website!

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