The international register of container owner codes

The international register of identification codes for container owners was originated by the Bureau International des Containers (BIC) and has been published continually since 1970. It was subsequently adopted by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1972, forming an essential part of the ISO 6346 standard : “Freight Containers – Coding, Identification and Marking”. This standard also describes technical markings such as size and type code, country code and various operational marks.

Only ISO Alpha-codes (container prefixes) for identification of container owners registered with BIC may be used as unique identity marking of containers in all international transport and customs declaration documents.

What is a BIC / Container Code?

It is comprised of

  • An owner/operator code of 3 letters;
  • A fourth letter used as equipment 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.

What is BIC code

It Permits

  1. The identification of the owner or principal operator;
  2. The identification of the unit by its owner or operator as a reference number for its database (dimensions, type, year of putting into operation, date of control, of maintenance, etc..).

It Facilitates

  1. The international circulation and temporary admission for customs purpose;
  2. 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 to the Customs Convention on Containers, the Istanbul 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 Removals (FIDI).
BIC container codes

Used & published worldwide

Used by


Container-owners/ operators



Container-operating countries

  • A paper copy of the BIC-CODE Register is published yearly
  • The latest list of BIC codes is always available on BIC’s website
  • The eBIC service provides the register in electronic format to members as well as terminals, Customs authorities, and other international organizations
  • Available via API

Frequently Asked Questions

A shipping container code is a standardised method of identification for intermodal containers. Also known as ISO 6346 or Container Prefix and maintained by BIC, shipping container codes are made up of owner prefix, equipment identifier, serial number and check digit.

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. See more details of container markings