The international identification codes of container owners called "BIC Codes" or "ISO Alpha-codes"
The international identification code of containers proposed by the Bureau International des Containers (BIC) since 1969 has been standardized by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1972. It forms an essential part of the ISO 6346 standard : « Freight Containers – Coding, Identification and Marking ». (This standard describes otherwise some technical complementary markings such as size and type code, country code and various operational marks).
Only ISO Alpha-codes (a.k.a. container prefixes) for identification of container owners registered with the BIC may be used as unique identity marking of containers in all international transport and customs declaration documents.
- An owner/operator code of 3 letters;
- A fourth letter used as equiment identifier (1);
- A serial number of 6 Arabic numerals (2);
- A seventh digit (check digit) providing a means of validating the recording and/or transmission accuracy of the data.
Example (theoretical- for a container): BICU 123456 5
It guarantees that the identification of the container is unique.
- 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..).
- 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
- Globally by over 2000 owners or operators.
It is displayed worldwide
- A paper copy of the BIC-CODE Register is published yearly;
- The latest list of the BIC codes is always available on the BIC’s website;
- The eBIC service provides the register in electronic format to members as well as terminals, Customs authorities, and other international organizations.
Notes: (1) ISO standard 6346 makes provison for the use of 3 letters as equipment identifier : the “U” for the containers, « J » for detachable freight container-related equipment, and « Z » for container-related trailers and chassis. The use of a different letter from these three ones as the fourth letter on any piece of equipement is NOT ISO compliant.
(2) Please kindly note that the BIC does not register the 6 serial numbers, which are left to the owner/operator’s choice (as long as it ensures that each number is allocated only once)
What is a Container Code?
A shipping container code is a standardised method of identification for intermodal containers. Also known as ISO 6346 or Container Prefix and maintained by the BIC, shipping container codes are made up of owner prefix, equipment identifier, serial number and check digit – more info
How Do I Find a Container Number?
The identification number can be found on the front-end, both sides, top and door-end of the shipping container. This is made up of owner prefix, equipment identifier, serial number and check digit – more info