Title:
Modular intermodal container
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A modular intermodal container has a main frame of rectangular dimensions suitable for stacking with conventional intermodal containers. Cargo cradles are selectively supported on the main frame so as to be selectively separable from the main frame independently of one another. In a preferred embodiment, each cargo cradle is an enclosed hopper bin arranged to support particulate material therein. Use of a plurality of selectively separable cargo supporting cradles permits a plurality of different types of cargo items to be transported and subsequently individually separated from one another.



Inventors:
Willemsen, Robert P. (Winnipeg, CA)
Application Number:
11/294573
Publication Date:
06/08/2006
Filing Date:
12/06/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
211/191
International Classes:
A47B47/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
JACYNA, J CASIMER
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ADE & COMPANY INC. (WINNIPEG, MB, CA)
Claims:
1. A modular intermodal container for stacking with conventional intermodal containers, the modular container comprising: a main frame having rectangular dimensions of length, width and height similar to conventional intermodal containers; and a plurality of cargo cradles selectively supported on the main frame so as to be selectively separable from the main frame, each cargo cradle being arranged to support a cargo item thereon for selective separation from the main frame with the respective cargo cradle upon which the cargo item is supported.

2. The modular intermodal container according to claim 1 wherein the main frame comprises four vertical corner posts at respective corners of the main frame, open truss frames spanning the top, bottom and sides of the main frame; and load transfer members on the truss frames upon which the cargo cradles are supported.

3. The modular intermodal container according to claim 2 wherein the open truss frames include a plurality of intersecting struts and chords and wherein the load transfer members are each supported on the truss frames at an intersection of one of the struts and one of the chords.

4. The modular intermodal container according to claim 2 wherein the load transfer members are mounted adjacent the bottom of the main frame and support the cargo cradles thereabove.

5. The modular intermodal container according to claim 2 wherein each cargo cradle includes a rectangular support frame and wherein there is provided one of the load transfer members supporting each corner of each rectangular support frame of the cargo cradles thereon.

6. The modular intermodal container according to claim 2 wherein the cargo cradles are fastened to the load transfer members by selectively separable fasteners.

7. The modular intermodal container according to claim 1 wherein the cargo cradles are slidably removable from the main frame through a top side of the main frame independently of one another.

8. The modular intermodal container according to claim 1 wherein each cargo cradle is generally rectangular in cross section and wherein the main frame includes four vertical corner posts in a rectangular configuration associated with each cargo cradle for receiving the cargo cradle between the corner posts, each cargo cradle including a vertically extending recessed channel formation along each corner thereof which receives a respective one of the corner posts of the main frame therein such that side walls spanning between the corners of the cargo cradle are offset laterally outwardly in relation to interior corners of the vertical corner posts of the main frame.

9. The modular intermodal container according to claim 1 wherein each cargo cradle comprises a rigid cradle frame supporting an enclosed bin formed of non-metallic walls thereon.

10. The modular intermodal container according to claim 9 wherein each cradle frame is supported directly on the main frame and comprises a peripheral flange supporting the enclosed bin thereon.

11. The modular intermodal container according to claim 1 wherein the cargo cradles are interchangeable with one another.

12. The modular intermodal container according to claim 1 wherein the cargo cradles substantially fill a volume defined by the rectangular dimensions of the main frame.

13. The modular intermodal container according to claim 1 wherein each cargo cradle includes lifting hooks formed thereon.

14. The modular intermodal container according to claim 1 wherein at least one cargo cradle comprises an enclosure.

15. The modular intermodal container according to claim 14 wherein the enclosure includes a lid opening and a lid which selectively encloses the lid opening, the lid including corrugated venting passages formed therein for venting the enclosure.

16. The modular intermodal container according to claim 14 wherein the enclosure includes a perforated plenum within a hollow interior of the enclosure and a plenum duct communicating between the perforated plenum and an exterior of the enclosure for aeration of particulate materials within the enclosure.

17. The modular intermodal container according to claim 16 wherein there is provided a nozzle attachment on the plenum duct for dispersing substances into aeration air in the plenum duct.

18. The modular intermodal container according to claim 14 wherein the enclosure includes moisture and temperature sensing probes within a hollow interior of the enclosure.

19. The modular intermodal container according to claim 14 wherein there is provided a pressure washing system comprising a plurality of nozzles within the enclosure and a connector on an exterior side of the enclosure in communication with the plurality of nozzles for supplying fluid to the nozzles.

20. The modular intermodal container according to claim 19 wherein the internal pressure washing system incorporates a main line for carrying washing fluid and a venturi adapter coupled to the main line for introducing concentrated solutions into the washing fluid in the main line through the venturi adapter.

Description:

This application claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C.119(e) of U.S. provisional application Serial No. 60/632,954, filed Dec. 6, 2004.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a modular intermodal container which is suitable for stacking on trucks, railcars, container ships and the like, and more particularly relates to a modular intermodal container having a space frame construction for receiving separable cargo containing cradle compartments thereon.

BACKGROUND

There is a demand for better performance in the handling and transportation of particulate material in bulk volumes and more so bulk materials where Identity Preservation, Segregation and Traceability are motivating factors.

The vision of the grain industry in Canada was articulated a few years ago and states: By the year 2005 Canada will have the most efficient, viable and competitive production, marketing, transportation and handling structure in the world. The grain industry in Canada is being shaped by a number of fundamental changes including: elevator/rail consolidation, more diversity in what is being shipped and shifts in customers requirements.

During the past decade there has been a reduction in the number of elevators from approximately 1800 in the mid 1990's to approximately 300 high throughput elevators at present day. Closure of railway branch lines has increased cost to producers of the grain as a result of further trucking distances to get their product into the pipeline.

Current market forces necessitate the ability to differentiate products to meet the specific end use needs of the buyers. This also creates distinct marketing advantages and opportunities to extract price premiums in some markets. However there are trade offs as greater demands are placed on the existing logistics system which in turn adds costs to physically maintain product segregation's during handling and transportation.

The present system operates as follows: grain is called into the system based on price signals. Handling and transportation costs are a significant portion of the price. Grain is marketed for delivery from one to six months into the future. Grain shipped via bulk spends as much as ninety days in the pipeline. Grain is primarily sold in bulk quantities ranging from 25,000 to 100,000 metric tonne lots. Rail freight is the producer's single largest logistic cost item. The current system presently requires multiple handling of the product before it reaches the final destination. This handling of product at the farm, at the elevator, at the railcar, at the port terminal, at the bulk ship and at the customers terminal and processors facilities factors in shrink. Shrink takes the form of product loss, spoilage, grade deterioration and cross contamination and is estimated at about 2 to 3 percent of total volume shipped.

The global agricultural system is being revolutionized as an increasing number of cereals and oilseeds are being differentiated to ensure their value or uniqueness is captured and maintained throughout the supply chain. Physically maintaining segregation introduces operational inefficiencies throughout the existing bulk handling pipeline. It is estimated this can contribute as much as seven percent of the handling cost at terminals. Identity preservation in the bulk system causes congestion at the ports which in turn holds up the reallocation of hopper cars thereby causing hopper car shortages preventing producers from getting their product to market on time.

It is estimated that three to five percent of grain exports are shipped via container through established trade routes primarily with Asia and Europe. The tonnage this represents is approximately 750,000 tonnes annually. The containers presently used are common box type containers ISO standardized internationally into TEU (Twenty Equivalency Units) and FEU (Forty Equivalency Units) measure.

These common box containers are filled with grains that must be bagged, palletized and stuffed prior to shipping. This process is labor intensive and time consuming as well as adding packaging costs and is usually initiated at the port terminals but has been done inland. Alternatively, containers are also lined with large plastic bags, lifted at one end, filled with grain, the bag is sealed, a bulkhead installed, the doors closed and container lowered ready for shipment. This method has experienced some drawbacks whereby there are a limited amount of tip chassis trucks available at the customers end to unload the containers as well as consistency in container size to accommodate plastic bag sizing, the producers do not know the size of the container until it arrives on site in most cases.

The intermodal container industry has seen double digit growth for more than a decade and shows no signs of slowing down. There is evidence that several new container ships with a TEU capacity of 9500, will be leaving dry dock in the next couple of years. Conversely, there is no evidence of new capital spending in the bulk ship industry.

Internationally, China the most populous country in the world is predicted to become a major importer of grain since the last decade has seen their 400 million tonne stockpile diminish into virtual non existence. This could mean as much as 5 million tonnes a year will be exported from Canada of which 30% is expected to be identity preserved to satisfy the tastes of a growing middle class sector around china's major centres.

Canada presently exports about 10 million tonnes of special crops, oilseeds and identity preserved grains annually. Only 10% of this is shipped via container and the balance shipped via traditional bulk processes.

Shipping of grain in the prior art in some instances involves use of intermodal containers that include hoppers to permit easier loading and unloading of the containers, but the particular construction of such known containers is limited to a single specific use with limited flexibility. U.S. Pat. No. 5,960,074 to Kee et al and U.S. Pat. No. 5,529,222 to Toth et al disclose examples of containers having hopper discharge gates. In each instance, a single compartment is fixed mounted within a surrounding frame so that limited use of the container is permitted. Furthermore, only a single type of product can be carried.

SUMMARY

According to one aspect of the present invention there is provided a modular intermodal container for stacking with conventional intermodal containers, the modular container comprising:

    • a main frame having rectangular dimensions of length, width and height similar to conventional intermodal containers; and
    • a plurality of cargo cradles selectively supported on the main frame so as to be selectively separable from the main frame, each cargo cradle being arranged to support a cargo item thereon for selective separation from the main frame with the respective cargo cradle upon which the cargo item is supported.

Use of a plurality of selectively separable cargo supporting cradles permits a plurality of different types of cargo items to be transported and subsequently individually separated from one another to preserve identity of bulk materials being shipped.

Preferably the main frame comprises four vertical corner posts at respective corners of the main frame, open truss frames spanning the top, bottom and sides of the main frame; and load transfer members on the truss frames upon which the cargo cradles are supported.

When the open truss frames include a plurality of intersecting struts and chords, the load transfer members are preferably each supported on the truss frames at an intersection of one of the struts and one of the chords.

The load transfer members may be mounted adjacent the bottom of the main frame to support the cargo cradles thereabove.

Each cargo cradle preferably includes a rectangular support frame in which one of the load transfer members supports each corner of each rectangular support frame of the cargo cradles thereon.

The cargo cradles are preferably fastened to the load transfer members by selectively separable fasteners.

Preferably the cargo cradles are slidably removable from the main frame through a top side of the main frame independently of one another.

When each cargo cradle is generally rectangular in cross section and the main frame includes four vertical corner posts in a rectangular configuration associated with each cargo cradle for receiving the cargo cradle between the corner posts, each cargo cradle preferably includes a vertically extending recessed channel formation along each corner thereof which receives a respective one of the corner posts of the main frame therein such that side walls spanning between the corners of the cargo cradle are offset laterally outwardly in relation to interior corners of the vertical corner posts of the main frame.

Each cargo cradle may comprise a rigid, metallic cradle frame supporting an enclosed bin formed of non-metallic walls, of less dense material than the frame, thereon.

Each cradle frame is preferably supported directly on the main frame and comprises a peripheral flange supporting the enclosed bin thereon.

The cargo cradles are preferably interchangeable with one another.

Preferably, the cargo cradles substantially fill a volume defined by the rectangular dimensions of the main frame.

Each cargo cradle may include lifting hooks formed thereon.

The bin enclosure of each cargo cradle preferably includes a lid opening and a lid which selectively encloses the lid opening in which the lid includes corrugated venting passages formed therein for venting the enclosure.

The enclosure may include a perforated plenum within a hollow interior of the enclosure and a plenum duct communicating between the perforated plenum and an exterior of the enclosure for aeration of particulate materials within the enclosure. There may be provided a nozzle attachment on the plenum duct for dispersing substances into aeration air in the plenum duct for fumigation and the like.

The enclosure may include moisture and temperature sensing probes within a hollow interior of the enclosure.

There may also be provided a pressure washing system comprising a plurality of nozzles within the enclosure and a connector on an exterior side of the enclosure in communication with the plurality of nozzles for supplying washing fluid to the nozzles.

The internal pressure washing system may comprise a main line for carrying washing fluid and a venturi adapter coupled to the main line for introducing concentrated solutions into the washing fluid in the main line through the venturi adapter.

As described herein, the container comprises a structural frame, whereby its members do not all lie in the same plane. It is rectangular in nature, but is open without cladding, roofing, flooring and the like. A plurality of posts, chords and struts are configured within the structural frame. The chords and struts of the structural frame are designed to withstand the loads placed upon them and transmit such loads to the four corner posts where the container frame is supported.

The container frame is capable of accepting at least one cradle bin where the cradle bin can take the form of a tank or hopper or box. The bins are specifically sized to slide into the structural chambers from the top of the container frame. The cradle bins are specifically engineered to be free standing within the space frame container and are secured in place by bolts or pins and clips.

The use of the container including the cradle bins inserted therein permits the storing and movement of particulate materials within the intermodal container freight system. The storing of particulate materials within the cradle bins permits the particulate material to be sealed in bulk volumes of 20 and 40 tonne in 10 tonne increments. The cradle bins segregate the particulate materials from other particulate materials providing for physical identity preservation also resulting in the ability to send more than one variation of particulate material within the same container. Movement of the particulate materials stored inside the cradle bins within the space frame container, permits better documentation for product traceability purposes. The space frame cradle container also enables a significant reduction in the handling of particulate materials for once the particulates are loaded within the space frame cradle container they need not be handled again until they reach the customer's processing facility.

The space frame container with the cradle bins inside can be loaded and unloaded in much the same fashion as present railway hopper cars, from the top and bottom, which results in little capital investment required at the present loading and unloading facilities.

The nominal FEU space frame containers are designed such that two TEU containers can be stacked on top of a FEU container this will particularly benefit the railways when building container train loads. The space frame containers and the cradle bins contained therein are stackable to facilitate efficient use of cubic space at container depots, ocean container ships, railcars or wherever appropriate.

The cradle bins are interchangeable permitting the conversion of the space frame container for other product specific handling characteristics. The cradle and the cradle bin are a self supporting structure and can be loaded into the space frame container in 10 tonne increments. This will particularly benefit producers who haul their own grain with their own trucks but don't have a large truck to handle 20 tonne shipments. It also provides producers with a component pricing structure which would permit the producers to purchase multiple cradle bins and a limited number of space frame containers such that the cradle bins can be used as storage bins until such time as shipment is required. When shipment is required the producer would remove the empty cradles and insert the full cradles making the container, shipment ready without moving the particulate contents

The cradle bins have double angle corner posts permitting the offset of the cradle bin wall which in turn maximizes the volume of the space with in the cradle bin optimizing it payload capability.

The cradle bins have top and bottom gate openings and assemblies too permit the loading, unloading and sealing of the particulate materials stored within. The openings are aligned such that the containers can be loaded and unloaded in stacked position.

The space frame cradle container permits the shipping of particulate materials outside the present bulk processes and substantially reduces the time necessary to get the product from the producer to the processor. This reduction in time reduces inventory carrying costs. It also permits the buyers of the particulate materials to more easily obtain Letters of Credit and quicker discharge of such Letters of Credit.

The space frame container has a lower tare weight in comparison to common box containers. This will benefit shippers because ocean freight is based on total weight shipped.

In addition to standard intermodal connectors located at the corners for lifting the container, two additional lifting methods have been incorporated to permit the loading of the container by forklift or by winch method on tip chassis. This will benefit farmers who utilize the containers to store their particulates but do not have standard container lifting capabilities.

The cradle bins are designed with an air drying infrastructure for natural or heated grain drying. The infrastructure consists of a supply duct connected to a perforated plenum situated in the centre of the hopper and extending upwards through the centre of the particulate volume. This is particularly beneficial since finer particulates consolidate towards the centre of a hopper making the particulates difficult to ventilate thus promoting moisture retention and mould growth. The plenum forces air through the fines from inside to out. The plenum duct protrudes outside the cradle bin to permit the connection of standard fan or burner units. The cradle bins are vented at the top to permit the exhaust of air forced into the cradle bins. This feature also permits the producers to dry particulates in small quantities eliminating the need to take the particulates offsite for this operation. The external portion of the duct is also fitted with a nozzle capable of introducing fumigants such as malethyon or other airborne fumigants into the forced air duct. A delivered static pressure of 1.5 to 2 kpa though the duct will migrate fumigant through the particulates killing any infestation encountered.

The cradle bins are fitted with an internal pressure washing system complete with a venturi adapter to introduce sanitizing solutions during the wash operation. The exterior connector is a quick connect fitting to fit standard gas powered pressure washing units. This feature facilitates the cleaning of the cradle bins at virtually any location eliminating the need to haul the container to special cleaning facilities.

The cradle bins are also internally fitted with strategically placed temperature and moisture sensors to permit monitoring of the particulate payload at various points within the volume.

The cradle bins will be equipped with RFID technology and GPS satellite tracking emitters if required by customer.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

One embodiment of the invention will now be described in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a side elevation view of the modular intermodal container.

FIG. 2 and FIG. 3 are respective bottom plan and end elevational views of the container according to FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a cradle frame for mounting within the container according to FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 and FIG. 6 are side elevational and top plan views of the cradle frame according to FIG. 4.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a lower corner connection between the cradle frame and the main frame of the container.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a top corner connection between the cradle frame and the main frame of the container.

FIG. 9 is a top plan view of the corner connection between the cradle frame and the main frame of the container.

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a bin enclosure for being supported in the cradle frame according to FIG. 4.

FIG. 11 is a sectional side elevation view of the bin enclosure.

FIG. 12 is an end elevational view of the bin enclosure.

FIG. 13 is a bottom plan view of a discharge gate assembly of the bin enclosure.

FIG. 14 is a side elevational view and FIG. 15 is a sectional elevational view of the bottom discharge gate assembly according to FIG. 13.

FIG. 16 is a top plan view of the lid assembly of the bin enclosure.

FIG. 17 is a side elevational view and FIG. 18 is a sectional elevational view of the lid assembly according to FIG. 16.

FIG. 19 is a bottom plan view of the lid assembly according to FIG. 16.

FIG. 20 is a side elevational view of the modular intermodal container having shorter dimensions than the container according to FIG. 1.

FIGS. 21 and 22 are bottom plan and top plan views of the container according to FIG. 20 respectively.

A top plan view of the containers according to FIG. 1 is substantially identical to the top plan view according to FIG. 22 while the end views of the container according to FIG. 20 are substantially identical to the end view of FIG. 3.

In the drawings like characters of reference indicate corresponding parts in the different figures.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring to the accompanying drawings, there is illustrated a modular intermodal container generally indicated by reference numeral 10. The container 10 is particularly suited for the intermodal transport, shipping and rail industry.

The container 10 includes a main frame 11 having rectangular dimensions in three dimensions similar to conventional intermodal containers. The main frame is structurally engineered to support the stacking of one container 10 on top of another, supported at the four corners. The container frame 10 comprises of posts 12, chords 14, struts 16 and load transfer plates 18.

The main frame 11 has rectangular dimensions which are similar in length, width and height to conventional intermodal containers so as to be suitable for stacking therewith. The posts 12, cords 14 and struts 16 form open truss frames which have no enclosed panels and which span the top, bottom, sides and ends of the main frame to form a lightweight and rigid structure suitable for supporting cargo loads thereon in a stacked configuration.

The posts 12 are provided at all four corners of the container frame and at longitudinally spaced positioned along each side of the frame in a vertical orientation for transferring loads between containers when stacked. The posts 12 are provided at approximately ten foot intervals along each side so that a forty foot long container is divided into four cargo containing sections in which each section is bound by a respective set of four of the corner posts 12 at the corners thereof. Similarly, a twenty foot long container is divided into two cargo containing sections bound by respective sets of four corner posts.

A cargo cradle 22 for carrying cargo is selectively supported within each of the container sections for selective separation from the main frame as desired. The cargo cradles 22 are thus sequentially aligned with one another in the longitudinal direction or lengthwise direction of the container 10. The top frame includes chords which are only supported at an intersection between adjacent cargo containing sections so that each individual section is fully open at the top side thereof for slidably receiving a respective one of the cradles 22 therethrough.

In this arrangement each cradle 22 is supported for sliding separation from the main frame vertically through the open top and of the container. Each cradle 22 supports a cargo item therein for selective separation from the main frame of the container with the respective cradle 22 upon which it is supported. The cradles 22 are supported independently of one another on the main frame and are identical in dimension so as to be fully interchangeable with one another or with other cradles of varying configuration but having similar cross sectional dimensions.

Each cradle 22 includes a cradle frame formed of rigid metallic members upon which a bin enclosure 26 is supported. The cradle frame comprises a set of four corners posts 24 and a plurality of bracing members 36 which span horizontally between the posts at the top and bottom ends thereof and at an intermediate position spaced slightly above the bottom end of the posts. Vertical bracing members 36 are also provided spanning between the horizontal bracing members at respective sides of the cradle frame between the corner posts 24.

The bin enclosure 26 comprises a lightweight plastic or other suitable non metallic material which substantially fills the volume defined by the frame of the cradle 22. More particularly the bin enclosure includes bin walls which span between the corners posts 24 in a horizontal direction and which span vertically between the bracing members 36 at the top and at the intermediate location between the corner posts 24. The bin walls join a hopper formed at the bottom side thereof which spans between the intermediate bracing members 36 and the bottom of the frame of the cradle.

Each cargo cradle is general rectangular in cross section with the four corners posts 24 being located at the corners of the frame of the cargo cradle. Each corner post 24 is formed of a double angle so as to define a vertically extending recessed channel formation along each corner for mating with an interior corner of one of the four posts 12 of the main frame associated with the section of the container which slidably receives the cargo cradle therein as shown in FIGS. 7 through 9.

The side walls of the bin enclosure 26 span between the corners of the cradle frame so that each side wall of the bin enclosure is offset laterally outward in relation to the channel formation along the corners. Accordingly the walls of the bin 26 are offset laterally outward in relation to the interior corners of the four vertical corner posts 12 of the main frame so that the bin walls capture the maximum volume defined by the cradle frame to substantially fill the volume defined by the main frame of the container. The side walls of the bin enclosure are similarly formed to include a recess at the corners to accommodate space for the interior corners of the corner posts.

The intermediate bracing members 36 of the frame of each cradle 22 includes a horizontal shelf or supporting surface upon which the walls of the bin enclosure are engaged for transferring the load of the bin enclosures 26 to the bracing members 36 which in turn transfer the load to the corner posts 24.

The load transfer plates 18 of the main frame of the container are supported at the bottom of the main frame at all four corners of each section which slidably receives one of the cargo cradles therein for supporting each cradle frame at all four corners thereof. The load transfer plates 18 are supported on the truss frames spanning the sides and bottom of the main frame so that each load transfer plate is located at an intersection of one of the posts 12, one of the horizontal extending chords 14 and one of the diagonally extending struts 16.

By locating the transfer plates adjacent the bottom of the main frame, the cradle frames supported thereon are accordingly supported above the load transfer plates 18. Each load transfer plate 18 comprises a horizontal supporting surface upon which the corner posts 24 of the cargo cradles 22 are supported. Each post 24 includes a mating foot plate at a bottom side thereof which is horizontal for being engaged upon the horizontal supporting surface of the load transfer plate 18. Suitable fasteners are provided for fastening the feet of the corner posts 24 of the cradles to the load transfer plates 18 to secure the cargo cradles to the main frame for transport. When the fasteners are released, lifting hooks 80 provided at the top corners of the corner posts 24 of the cargo cradles can be used to lift and vertically and slidably remove the cargo cradles independently of one another from the main frame.

ISO standard container connectors 20 are fastened to the corners of the space frame 10 at the intersections of posts 12, chords 14, struts 16 and load transfer plates 18. ISO standard container connectors permit the container 10 to be interlocked with other containers when stacked on ocean vessels or mounted on truck or train chassis.

The space frame container 10 has no floors, walls or roof cladding and is virtually see through from all directions. The space frame container 10 is sized to meet the Equivalency Unit, nominal 20 ft. TEU and nominal 40 ft. FEU. These nominal measures represent a space frame which is 20 or 40 ft long and 8 ft or 10 ft wide and a variety of heights from 7.5 ft to 9.5 ft in height.

The FEU frame according to FIG. 1 has additional load transfer plates 76 located at mid point on the top chord. The plates are configured to provide a saddle for the ISO standard container connectors 20. The connectors are mounted side by side and located to accommodate placement of a TEU on top of the FEU.

The TEU frame is fitted with forklift tine receptors 100 secured to the bottom chord 14. The receptors 100 comprise tubular channels suitably sized and spaced from one another for receiving forklift tines therein. The pair of tubular channels forming the receptors 100 is centrally located along a longitudinally extending side of the container frame with the channels extending perpendicularly to the longitudinal direction for lifting the container from one side thereof.

A cable winch hook attachment plate 102 is mounted on the frame at one end of the TEU frame according to FIG. 20. The plate 102 is suitably arranged for attachment of a cable which for certain handling operations of the container.

The space frame or cargo cradles 22 are inserted into the space frame container 10 from the top and are fastened to the load transfer plates 18 with pinned/bolted devices 38 at the bottom of the space frame container 10. The space frame cradles 22 can be stacked two high independent of the space frame container.

The double angle offset corner posts 24 of the space frame cradle 22 are formed to permit the maximum volume of space to be captured by the cradle bin or bin enclosure 26. The cradle bin 26 may be formed of plastic, steel or other alloys. The cradle bin 26 will be similar to a grain bin commonly found on a typical grain farm.

The cradle bin 26 according to FIG. 1 has an oblong lid opening 28 at the top and a pair of circular openings 30 at the bottom to permit the loading and unloading of the cradle bin 26. The bin according to FIG. 20 has a single discharge opening 30 at the bottom end thereof.

The openings 30 at the bottom of each cradle bin 26 according to FIG. 1 are provided with a double gate 34 for enclosing the openings 30 respectively and to facilitate loading in stacked position when opened. The two gates 34 are commonly actuated for opening and closing.

The lid opening 28 at the top is formed to accommodate the cradle bin pivot lid assembly 32.

The cradle bin circular opening 30 is formed to accommodate the cradle bin pivot gate assembly 34.

The pivot gate assembly 34 is mounted to the cradle bin opening 30 on the under side of the cradle bin 26. Each pivot gate assembly 34 has an aperture of 22 inches in diameter. The aperture is constructed of a 22 inch ID collar 40 approximately 3 inches in length. The collar 40 is fastened to the cradle bin opening 30 with bolts 42 and gasket 44 to facilitate replacement.

The collar 40 will be grooved 46 for half of the circumference on the inside face of the collar 40 and the remainder of the circumference will be slotted 48 completely through the wall thickness of the collar 40. The slot 48 provides a guide for the pivot blade 50 to travel during the opening and closing of the pivot gate assembly 34. The pivot blade 50 is attached to a pivot arm 52 which in turn is connected to the pivot shaft 54 protruding from the pivot gate assembly gear box 56. The groove 46 and slot 48 are lined with compressible rubber seals 58 to prevent moisture from entering the cradle bin 26 when in a closed position.

The pivot gate assembly gear box 56 contains a worm gear connected to a crank rod 62 which extends from the gear box 56 to the periphery of the container cradle 22. Turning the crank rod 62 will permit the opening and closing of the pivot gate assembly 34. Inside the gear box 56 the worm gear interacts with a sprocket 64 which is connected to the pivot arm through a shaft 54 and when operated will open and close the pivot gate assembly 34.

The pivot lid assembly 32 comprises of a lid 66 connected to an arm 68 and a pivot lid assembly gear box 70. The pivot lid assembly gear box 70 has two gear tracts. The first gear tract lifts the lid 66 to clear the cradle bin opening 28 and the second gear tract pivots the lid 66 clear of the opening 28 to permit the loading of cradle bin 26 with particulate materials. Each gear tract is operated by a crank rod 72 extending from the gear box 70 to the cradle frame 22 periphery. Turning each crank rod in sequence will open and close the pivot lid assembly 32. The lid 66 contains a rubber seal 74 around its internal circumference to seal the opening 28 preventing the passage of moisture into the cradle bin 26 when in a closed position. The crank rods are supported at the cradle frame 22 periphery by crank rod housings 76 for stability. Gear locks are incorporated into the assembly 32 to ensure constant force is applied to the lid 66 when in the closed position by means of placing pressure on the rubber seal 74.

The aeration system consists of a stainless steel or plastic perforated plenum 80 mounted inside the cradle bin 26. The plenum 80 is connected to a supply duct 82 which extends from the plenum 80 through the cradle bin wall 26. The supply duct on the exterior of the cradle bin incorporates a fitting 84 to permit introduction of fumigants. The supply duct 82 also form a chase to permit the routing of internal pressure washing piping 86. Rotating nozzles 86 located within the hollow interior of the bin 26 are affixed to the piping 86 to facilitate the internal pressure washing of cradle bin 26. A standard quick connect fitting 88 is attached to the piping 86 at the exterior supply duct 82. A hinged supply duct cap 90 provides a seal to close the plenum when not in use.

The pivot lid 66 has venting chambers 92 fluted intrinsically similar to a honey combing effect to permit the evacuation of air used in the aeration process. The venting chambers or passages are corrugated with baffles so that only a winding flow can penetrate the lid, thereby weatherproofing the lid assembly.

Sampling portals 94 are incorporated in the bin walls to permit sampling probes to be inserted for sample recovery. Suitable lids are provided for closing the portals 94 when not in use.

Temperature and moisture sensors 96 are mounted around the perforated plenum and traced to the exterior of the cradle bin 26 via the supply air duct to a read out device 98 to monitor temperature and moisture content respectively within the hollow interior of the enclosure.

In summary, there is provided a container for use in storing, conditioning particulate materials and transporting same, said container constructed dimensionally to fit standardized nominal sizing of TEU and FEU common inter modal box containers. The container comprises a plurality of posts, chords, struts and plates forming a defined volume of space. The structure has no side wall, end wall, roof or floor cladding or enclosure. The structure is open in nature.

The structure is designed and constructed in a manner to permit the insertion of cradles from the top of the structure. The cradle transfers the loads of the cargo supported by the cradle to the load transfer plates of the structure.

The structure has load transfer plates to accommodate the cradle loads within the structure. The cradles are securely fastened to the container at the load transfer plates. The cradles support cradle bins which contain the particulate materials for shipment. The cradle bins can be manufactured of plastic, steel or alloys and permit the containment of particulate materials for storage or shipment. The container bins are sealed from moisture when the lid and gate are in a closed position but do provide venting.

The space frame cradle 22 is constructed with four corner posts 24 and a plurality of bracing members 36 to transmit the loads imposed by the cradle bin 26 to the corner posts 24. The space frame cradle posts 24 are connected to the load transfer plates 18 with stud bolts 38 to secure the space frame cradle with in the space frame container 10. At the top of the corner posts 24 are lifting hooks 80 to permit the lifting of the cradle into and out of the space frame container 10 as required. The structure of the container permits stacking one on top of another. The structure of the FEU model will permit the stacking of two TEU units on top of a FEU space frame cradle container.

The structure can vary in height from 7.5 ft. to 9.5 ft and the accompanying cradle will be sized accordingly.

The cradle incorporates offset corner posts to maximize the capture of volume within the container and transmits the cradle loads to the load transfer plates of the container.

The structure is designed to accommodate the loads of other containers stacked upon each other. The cradle is designed to accommodate the loads imposed on it by the loads contained within the singular cradle bin and not the loads imposed by stacked containers and their respective cradles.

The cradle bins have top and bottom openings to load and unload particulate materials. The loading operation will be by mechanical means while the bottom unloading will be by gravity discharge. The openings are 24″ diameter on top and the aperture of the bottom opening is 22″ diameter.

The cradle bin has a pivot lid assembly operated by a gear driven assembly, lifts and pivots the lid to permit filling of the cradle bin. The lid assembly operates within the confines of the structure of the container and within the volume defined by the main frame.

The cradle bin has a pivot gate assembly to permit the gravity fed unloading of the cradle bin. The pivot gate assembly is gear driven to open and close the pivot gate. The gate assembly similarly operates within the confines of the structure of the container and within the volume defined by the main frame.

The cradle bin when closed provides a moisture resistant seal ensuring the particulate materials stored with in the bin remain dry.

As can be noted from the attached figures, the present invention provides a means whereby the user may construct a container specifically configured to receive and retain the articles to be shipped. Since each of the containers may be essentially sealed and locked, the shipper is given a measure of security as to the articles being transported. The shipper is able to load the container and seal the container. The container then remains sealed until it is delivered at its final destination. The present container construction thereby lessens the concern as to a subsequent shrinkage of product and instills confidence that identity preservation is physically maintained.

As described herein, an aeration system is provided in the form of a perforated plenum 80 supported within a hollow interior of the bin enclosures 26 of each cargo cradle. The perorated plenum 80 communicates with a plenum duct 82 which extends between the perforated plenum and an exterior of the enclosure where a suitable connection provides means for connecting aerations equipment or dryers and the like. A nozzle attachment of provided on the plenum duct for dispersing substances into the aeration air in the plenum duct as desired for purposes of fumigation and the like for instance. The bin enclosure also includes moisture and temperature sensing probes housed within the hollow interior of the enclosure for monitoring various conditions of materials stored within the bin enclosure.

Also as described herein a pressure washing system is provided in the form of a plurality of nozzles supported within hollow interior of the bin enclosure for connection with a suitable connector at an exterior side of the enclosure which communicates with the nozzles to supply a washing fluid to the nozzles when the connector is attached to a suitable pressurized supply line. The pressure washing system incorporates a main line for carrying the washing fluid to which a venturi adapter which is coupled to the main line to introduce concentrated solutions into the washing fluid in the main line through the venturi adapter.

Those skilled in the art will recognize the embodiments here and before discussed are illustrative of the general principles of the invention. The embodiments herein described are not intended to limit the scope of the claims which themselves recite what the applicant regards as his invention.