When mentioning a container, most of us will first think of a big steel box cargo intended for marine transport. But in English-speaking countries, it is a common name for a container of any kind and shape, which is not necessarily related to the sea and ships. The correct term for one that is primarily intended for marine transport would be a multi-purpose container (intermodal container).
Everyone knows about the container, but few ones know a story about its invention. The device, which has completely revolutionized the international transport of goods, making it significantly cheaper, is just over 60 years old. Credit for that goes to American businessman Malcolm McLean, whose trucking company was the fifth largest in the United States at the mid-50s of the last century.
However, the very idea came much earlier. Still in 1937 while waiting for loading cotton bales on his truck, he concluded that method of cargo handling is a big waste of time and money and has already started to think about the production of a standardized size cargo container that could be loaded on the ships in hundreds of pieces.
Guided by this idea, in 1955 he sold his trucking company and bought already well-established company for sea freight, naming it SeaLand Industries. That same year, he produced the first container, which was along with the strength, robustness, and easy boarding, also very safe from potential stealing, because it could lock up.
The last piece of the puzzle was the purchase of oil transport ship and its transformation into a container transport vessel. His ship, Ideal X, was the first of its kind in the world and was able to accept a total of 58 containers. The ship sailed on the first voyage from New Jersey to Houston. Even before docking at the port of destination, has received a substantial number of orders for container transport of goods in return. With safety in transport, McLean has won clients with better prices, which were around 25% lower than the average price in conventional land transport.
Over the next decade, there has been a large expansion of container traffic worldwide, as well as a large growth of specialized ports for the transshipment and handling of containers. By the early ’70s, when it was sold to a new owner, SeaLand Industries possessed 36 container ships, 27,000 containers, and maintained the regular navigation lines between 30 ports across North America. International Maritime Hall of Fame declared Malcolm McLean “person of the century” for his achievements in shipping.
All this led to a substantial reduction of prices in shipping: the average cost fell by as much as 90% compared to the period before the appearance of the container. It is estimated that currently, the world has more than 17 million container units and more than 6,000 container transport ships. These are just some of the reasons which support the claim that in the past 60 years, containers exactly were the largest single driving force of globalization.