How the Shipping Container Changed the World

The Intermodal Shipping Container

The Intermodal Shipping Container

If you live in a South African port city like Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Saldanha or Coega, travelling shipping containers are likely to be a part of your everyday life. Whether we realise it or not, all of us depend on the use of shipping containers that underpin global freight handling. Here’s a quick look at the history of the intermodal shipping container and the way it has changed the world.

It all began in North Carolina in 1955, when trucking entrepreneur Malcolm P. McLean who started out as a truck driver and would eventually become of the most revered businessmen in the USA, extended his business portfolio by purchasing a steamship company. McLean had an idea that he might streamline the entire shipping process by transporting truck trailers directly, with the cargo ready-packed inside. It was he who coined the term ‘intermodalism’ to describe the notion of increasing efficiency by minimising disruption during the transit period by using the same container to transport goods from their point of origin via road, sea and rail or any given combination thereof. What seemed like harebrained idea to begin with, eventually developed into the intermodal shipping container shipping companies around the globe use today.

Here are a few of the ways in which the introduction of of the intermodal shipping container changed the world:

  • Unprecedented levels of economic integration and trade were made possible, planting the seeds for globalisation.
  • Cities and port towns in certain pivotal distribution areas developed and expanded exponentially thanks to the influx of work.
  • The outsourcing of certain large manufacturing activities could be shifted to developing nations, providing work and income for its citizens.
  • Expedited aid could be brought to poor or under resourced nations more efficiently.

FUN FACT: The Maritime Association of the Port of New York and New Jersey sponsored a tribute to Malcolm P. McLean at the International Hall of Fame Awards Dinner on May 12th, 1999.

These are just a few of the ways in which the advent of the intermodal shipping container served to change the way the world does business on the open water and beyond. For more helpful information and advice, keep an eye on the blog in coming months. As one of South Africa’s foremost chandler service providers, we always have our finger on the pulse interesting shipping-related topics. In our next article we’ll take a look at the applications and standard sizes of some of the most popular shipping containers.

Recent Posts for Maritime Facts and Stories:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *