Despite a concentration of container traffic in the southeast of the UK over the last few decades, regional ports are attempting new development strategies to capture or retain specific traffic segments. These include intra-European short-sea traffic and a potentially increasing feeder market. These trends are reflected in the movement of different container types, which result in a number of planning challenges related to changing infrastructural and operational requirements. This paper uses highly disaggregated data on container type movements to address three issues that can inform these planning challenges. First, the imbalance of trade resulting in empty container repositioning; second, the requirement for gauge-cleared rail routes to cater for the increasing proportion of high-cube containers; and third, the specialisation of European short-sea traffic at secondary UK ports. The results reveal the disproportionate repositioning of empty containers at Scottish ports and the importance of 45 ft, high-cube and pallet-wide containers at regional ports, highlighting their focus on intra-European short-sea traffic and raising difficulties relating to their lower quality of landside infrastructure (particularly rail) in comparison to the large south-eastern ports. The potential repercussions on hinterland infrastructure development raise questions about both public and private sector responses to regional port development.