Modern Marvels: Shipping Containers

Shipping_containers_at_ClydeIt’s hard to imagine a world without container ships. These ships make it possible for us to request and send products all over the world. How do you think that Chinese- made pair of jeans go to you? Container ships are a feat of engineering and the backbone to our modern economy. The container aboard these ships are able to seamlessly be transported to the ship by semi-trucks, loaded on the ship, and taken off to be transported by truck to their destination. There is no need to unload the contents as in the old days.

Before containerization was invented, items were transported in packages and placed aboard ships. It was a painstaking, time consuming process. Containers can hold up to 64,000 lbs of cargo each. Thanks to the invention of containers, the shipping time for cargo was reduced by 84% and costs went down 35%. By 2001, almost 90% of dry cargo was shipped in a container.

Shipping containers are built to hold heavy material, withstand the salty ocean air, and last a long time. They are usually made of steel, but can also be made of aluminum, fiberglass, or even wood. The invention of the container was not met with open arms. Many trade unions for dock workers balked at the idea. They believed this invention would cause massive job losses. Many companies involved in ports and railways were worried about the huge costs involved in developing infrastructure to handle these new containers.

Containers can now be loaded and unloaded from a ship in a few hours. The sturdy containers also allow for less breakage while the ship is underway. There is also less theft. Container ships now make up about 14% of the world’s fleet based on tonnage. Despite improvements in efficiency, about 2,000-10,000 containers are lost at sea each year. This costs companies about $370 million dollars. This is due to storms, or even ships sinking. Shipping by container is still the best way to go for many companies around the world. You can thank this containerization innovation next time you purchase an item made overseas.

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