A Brief History of Shipping ContainersJanuary 20, 2023
“A Brief History of Shipping Containers: From Revolutionary Idea to Global Industry”
Shipping containers may seem like a modern invention, but the idea of using standardized, intermodal containers for shipping has actually been around for over 70 years. Here is a brief history of how shipping containers revolutionized the shipping industry and transformed global trade:
- 1950s: The idea of using standardized containers for shipping is first proposed by Malcolm McLean, an American trucking entrepreneur. McLean believed that loading and unloading cargo onto ships, trains, and trucks could be made more efficient and cost-effective if the cargo were contained in standardized units that could be easily transferred from one mode of transportation to another.
- 1956: McLean’s company, McLean Trucking, conducts the first containerization experiment, loading 58 containers onto a converted World War II tanker called the Ideal X. The experiment is a success, and McLean begins to promote the idea of containerization to other shipping companies.
- 1957: The first container ship, the SS Ideal-X, sets sail from Newark, New Jersey to Houston, Texas with a load of 58 containers. This marks the beginning of the container shipping industry as we know it today.
- 1960s: Containerization becomes more widely adopted by the shipping industry, and container ships begin to operate on major trade routes around the world. The use of containers makes it easier and cheaper to transport goods, and helps to drive global trade and economic growth.
- 1970s-Present: Containerization becomes the dominant form of shipping, and the global shipping container market grows to over $20 billion. Shipping containers are also repurposed for a wide range of uses, including housing, offices, schools, and other structures.