The advent of Cargo Containers has probably been one of the most underappreciated inventions
of the 20 th Century. Drivers of modern global economy, these containers replaced the manual
process of break bulk cargo – the bags, barrels, pallets, and crates that must be individually
loaded and unloaded onto ships, railcars, and trucks. A process which took up to 3 weeks time
and added labor to unload and load each ship.
In 1956, Malcolm Mclean, an American trucking tycoon, introduced the idea of Cargo
Containers. This idea not only revolutionized shipping but boosted global trade to extraordinary
levels. It proved to be an incredible invention, eliminating wasted space and cutting unloading
time by up to three weeks. This also meant for a significant drop in the cost of shipping which
was reduced to $0.16 per tone to load compared with $5.83 per tonne for loose cargo.
‘Ideal X’ the world’s first container ship sailed from Newyork to Houston in 1956, carrying 58
shipping containers. By 1968, International Standards Organization standardized the invention as
a standard box, which identified as being 20 foot long, 8 foot high and 8 foot wide. It was after
this time, that ships were then completely restructured around the standard dimensions of these
boxes. With this shipping costs dropped and revolutionized ports, railway networks, ships,
cities, countries all over the world. Cargo Containers have therefore known to be the single
largest means of globalization.
According to the Economist, “the shipping container has been more of a driver of globalization
than all trade agreements in the past 50 years together.”
Beyond our possible imagination and knowledge, currently there are 20 million shipping
containers ‘on the water’ travelling across borders all over the globe. Today, the contemporary
shipping vessels can carry over 20,000 – twenty-foot Equivalent Units of cargo containers. Most
people are rather unaware of this tremendous invention or they either don’t appreciate it, but the
fact states over 90% of the purchased items used have been transported in one of these Cargo
With increasing development in today’s modern age, foreign trade faces new challenges to keep
up with demand. We can now find huge ports and infrastructure in place all over the world, so
the problem isn’t getting products shipped from one country to another. However, the problem
persists of how the productivity can be reached in the most efficient manner reducing the
involvement of manual procedures. As the whole world around us has changed significantly over
the past decades, it is with the invention of such innovations like the Cargo Containers, itself,
that help us to be productive, efficient and cost effective in the fast paced era.