The History of Containerization and Its Impact on The Shipping Industry

Have you ever wondered how the everyday shipping process used today came to be? 62 years ago, the modern shipping container was introduced, revolutionizing the freight industry and forever changing the way goods were shipped.

The idea of using some sort of box to hold items throughout their journey wasn’t exactly new; the idea started to arise around World War II when pallets were used to transport military resources. However, it was not until the 1950s when American trucking entrepreneur Malcom P. McLean introduced containerization, a method that changed the shipping industry forever.

The Birth of Containerization

In April of 1956, Malcom McLean made the first of many trips on the Ideal X, a converted war tanker that was equipped to hold over 50 metal container boxes. Over the years, this method of containerization would evolve to become the standard for intermodal transportation. In 1961, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) set the standard sizes for shipping containers that are still used today.

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This method of shipping quickly took the freight forwarding field by storm. With containers that could be seamlessly moved from truck to ship to train, it minimizes interruptions between shipping methods. This brought change to more than just the shipping industry. With a standardized method being adopted on a global level, it allowed the ships, trucks, and trains that transported these containers to be built around certain specifications.

Rather than having to take apart shipments and reload them into the next method of transport, containers could be stacked comfortably and moved from vessel to vessel without difficulty. In the 60 years since its introduction, containerization has helped shape the way bulk shipping is handled.

Influence on Intermodalism

Intermodal transport occurs when goods are transported to their destination using a number of various transportation methods. Most commonly, this includes some form of land and sea travel. While intermodal transportation was not a relatively new thing, it wasn’t until McLean’s introduction of the modern shipping container that it really took off. In addition to the standard size implemented by the ISO, shipping containers must be properly loaded as per the industry guide. This is to ensure the safety of the merchandise as well as the transportation systems and docks. The shipping containers themselves are constructed of highly durable materials such as steel to ensure sturdiness and longevity.

Intermodal transport allowed shippers to send their goods long distances for a more affordable cost; the price of fuel for trains and ships is typically cheaper than other forms of long-distance shipping methods. In today’s world, it is an excellent choice for importers that are:

  • Sending continuous bulk shipments to the same location.
  • Shipping intermediate and finished goods in load units of less than 25 tons.
  • Shipping freight across more than 300 miles, or the equivalent of one day via truck.

The Future of Freight Forwarding

Without recognizing the history of global logistics, we would never be able to understand just how far we have come. Thanks to advances in technology over the last 50 years, we have been able to truly evolve the container and, in turn, how we do intermodal transportation.

At Promptus LLC, we have a number of dedicated services available to assist your importing and exporting business. To learn more about our services and to receive a free quote, contact us today at 1-877-776-6799.