A Study of Container Shipping By Kieran Alcock
“Containerization (or containerisation) is a system of intermodal freight transport using standard intermodal containers as prescribed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). These can be loaded and sealed intact onto container ships, railroad cars, planes, and trucks.”
The shipping container is one of the most significant inventions of the twentieth century. Along with the internet, it has revolutionised the global economy and the way we conduct business today. Consumers in Ireland are aware that the products they purchase on a daily basis come from all over the world. But few realise the effect that intermodal transportation, which is the seamless movement of containerised goods via sea, rail and road, has on the availability of our everyday items. Before containerisation, the movement of goods was a slow and inefficient process. Cargo ships could spend as much time in port being loaded as they did on the open seas reaching their destination and then as much time again being unloaded. This ruled out moving perishable goods as the time taken to reach their destination far exceeded their longevity. Today, the container ships are loaded and unloaded at state of the art facilities where thousands of containers are then transported by rail or road on to their destination to the consumer. The container has made transporting goods more cost effective and also increased the security of the goods being transported. The standardisation of container sizes, shapes and form has considerably lowered freight charges and costs. This uniformity means ships can be loaded and unloaded quickly and cargo ships spend less time in port meaning reduced transportation times. The container increased security of transporting goods. Firstly, the container hides the cargo from view and gives no indication of what is being transported. It is sealed when loaded and any attempts at tampering are immediately noticed. They also protect the goods when being transported from external forces, such as weather and damage when being moved. The global economy would not be what it is today without the introduction of the container, invented in 1956. Today it carries approx 90% of all goods in world trade. Almost all goods can be loaded and transported in the “Box”, as it is often referred to. As a result, containerisation has played a major role in globalisation.
Containerisation of sorts has been going on since the early eighteenth century. People have been transporting goods in boxes or “containers” of various sizes for quite some time. By the 1830’s, railroads were carrying containers that could be transferred to other modes of transport. These containers were small by today’s standards. At the beginning of the 20th century, some standardised containers were being used in the UK railroad system. But it wasn’t until 1955 that Malcolm McLean worked with engineer, Keith Tantlinger, to develop the modern intermodal container. They designed a shipping container and a method of loading and locking them onto ships. The design included a twist-lock mechanism atop each of the four corners, allowing the containers to be easily secured and lifted by cranes. This was the beginning of the international standardisation of shipping containers. In 1956, the year the container was introduced, the world was full of small companies selling to local markets. By the end of the 20th century, there were very few purely local markets left as globalisation grew on the back of the shipping container. McLean transported his first load of 58 trailer trucks on a refitted tanker named the Ideal X from Newark to Houston on the 26th April 1956. Arriving in Houston six days later, the trailer trucks were unloaded by hoist and placed on new running gear and delivered to their intended destination without being handled by longshoremen,...
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