BIC-Code. In order to identify all containers manufactured and used especially in shipping, each container is marked with special alpha-numeric codes that appear on the sides or plates of the containers.

The container is identified by the owner’s code (alphabetical, usually four letters) and a serial number and check digit (numeric section). The identification codes are registered by national organisations affiliated to the “Bureau International des Containers” (hence the abbreviation, “BIC”) in Paris, France. For example, OCLU 282001 [8] would identify a particular container owned by the United Kingdom Overseas Container Line.

The BIG-Code resulted from work done in the International Standards Organisation (ISO) in 1968 during the infancy of the containerisation system to develop an international standard for the marking of freight containers. The reason for this was that there was considerable confusion arising from the variety of numbering systems used by container owners. In developing the ISO proposal, it was recognised that an ideal identification system would be a numbering system in which each container had-a unique alphabetical owner code in which owners allocated serial numbers to their containers.

The recording of identification codes would be made by national registration organisations and the ISO developed a system for verifying the accuracy by using the “check digit”.

Soon after, the International Container Bureau (“BIC”) commenced to offer this registering and recording service through National Registration Organsations. If owners wish to protect their unique identification code, they apply to the national registration organisation in their own country or directly to the BIC Secretariat in Paris. The owner code comprises a set of three letters with “U” as the fourth and final letter.

The marking code for containers provides a uniform international identification for containers, on the containers themselves and also in documents associated with their movements from door-to-door. The markings are as follows:

Owner Code Serial Number
Check Digit
Country Code Size and Type Code

The marking is such that the container can be identified easily by operating personnel and is also suitable for electronic data processing (“EDP”) and “EDI”.

The check digit helps to identify one container out of hundreds of others in a container yard or container freight station.


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International Container Bureau (BIC)

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