The Unsung Hero of International Shipping: The Container
Posted on November 25, 2013
Rectangular, not particularly attractive, un-glamorous. You may wonder what more there is to say about containers. Well, quite a lot actually, as international shipping wouldn't be what it is today without them, and shipping costs would be such that a lot of goods that we take for granted would be unaffordable. So a bit of gratitude is in order!
While goods had been shipped in boxes since the 19th century, the size and materials used varied considerably, meaning that, to be transported over great distances, re-loading, additional protection and equipment were often needed, slowing down shipping and increasing costs. What the humble and misunderstood container brought to the world is standardisation and inter-modality.
From its first incarnation in the 1950s, the emphasis was towards creating a box that would be durable, reusable, stackable, and that could be transported around the world without ever being opened, from trucks, to railroads, to ships and back on the road. This required that all countries would agree on using standardised sizes of containers, and, for example, that container manufacturers would position corner fittings in the same place. Over the next two decades, a series of ISOs standards were defined, given us the streamlined system that is used nowadays.
Containerisation has been nothing less than a revolution for international shipping, without which globalisation couldn't have happened. Without it, shipping costs would have remained fairly high, and the selection of affordable goods available to consumers limited.
It also contributed to a reduction in stolen cargo, as containers all look identical and cargo is hidden from view. Made of weathering steel and securely locked, they are also difficult to break into.
So once in a while, spare a thought for the unprepossessing container which brings furniture, exotic food, electonics to your home and marvel at its ingenuity!
Click here to see our quick reference guide to making car shipping easy.