The History of Shipping Containers
Shipping containers came into use during the mid-late 1950’s. Ships that previously took a week to load could be loaded in a matter of hours. Products that could never make it to foreign markets became commonplace in those overseas markets-seafood from around the world, produce and many other short lived goods become possible to import and export around the world.
There was a time, Pre-World War II, when almost all products that the average American consumed was manufactured or grown within 300 miles of their home. Imagine your life with almost no products from foreign countries; this is essentially how it used to be. Gone are those days of loading items onto a pallet and then swinging the pallet (via rope) to a ship to be lowered with many other boxed/crated items in the ships hold.
No. Today, these items are forklift-loaded into shipping containers. These containers are then transported via ship, trucked or carried by railroad to the eventual market or destination. Most of the time this is an overseas importing process that uses all three aspects of container mobilization: ship, truck and railroad. Airplanes are now being outfitted to carry ISO (International Shipping Organization) Containers. It is only because of the rise of containerization that shipping has become so much easier, efficient and so much less expensive.
Today’s Mega Container Ships can carry well over 10,000 steel Shipping Containers per ship. Mediterranean Shipping Company’s “Oscar” can carry over 18,000 20’ Shipping Containers on deck…MSC launched Oscar in 2015. There are now several Mega Container Ships as big as Oscar. Oscar is larger than a Nimitz Class Nuclear Aircraft Carrier!
Items are packed into these containers by vendors and manufacturers and then sent to market or directly to the business or even an end customer. Let’s take a quick look at how small containerization has made our world: a product (let’s say an LCD TV) can be assembled and transported from a factory in Coastal China to the port of Hong Kong. It arrives in a Shipping Container. This container is then loaded onto a Container Transport Ship destined for the United States. Eventually, the LCD TV finds itself on a shelf at a Sears department store in Houston Texas. This whole process can be completed in 15-18 days.
Because of containerization items can be manufactured with contents that come from many different countries-the automobile that has parts from 12 different nations! The products we take for granted would not even be in our life if it were not for the process of containerization. Next time you see one of those big steel containers going down the road or a Container Ship stacked with thousands of ISO Containers (like a multi-colored mass of Legos) just think how much containerization has shrunk our world and opened up the so many possibilities. Today’s Global economy would not be possible without the process of containerization.