What is a Shipping Container?

A shipping container, also known as a cargo container or freight container, is a standardized metal box widely used across different modes of transportation, such as ships, trains, trucks, and planes. These containers have standard sizes, normally between 20 and 40 feet long, sometimes varying to cater to particular cargo. Shipping containers are made from durable materials like steel or aluminum, which are meant to endure the tests of international freight and handling. They have heavy-duty doors for enhanced security and corner fittings for lifting and handling by cranes or forklifts

Shipping containers are critical in facilitating international trade since they form the foundation of the contemporary logistics industry, offering a consistent and reliable mode of moving goods worldwide. Their standardized dimensions make stacking and intermodality hassle-free, making the logistical supply chain very efficient.

When Was The Shipping Container Invented?

The first shipping container, the ultimate innovation in trade and transportation and a revolution on its own, was invented and patented by American entrepreneur Malcolm McLean in 1956. McLean's innovation revolutionized the logistics sector by regularizing cargo handling and dramatically shortening loading and unloading times. Initially envisaged as a 35-foot steel container, MClean's design quickly gained prominence, forming the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards for shipping containers in 1961, which defined the dimensions and specifications for containerization. After that, the shipping container became ubiquitous in international trade, the pillar of modern logistics.

Shipping Container Transport Has Come a Long Way

Shipping container transport has, without any doubt, come a long way since its beginning in the middle of the 20th century, radically changing the face of world trade and logistics. Since then, containerization has become standard practice in the industry, substantially increasing the efficiency and capacity of cargo transportation. The standardized way of containerization opened up unhindered doors for intermodal transport, making it possible to shift goods without much difficulty across different modes of transport, e.g. ships, trains, trucks, and airplanes. Additionally, the advent of specialized containers designed to satisfy specific cargo needs has widened the spectrum of commodities transported via containerization, like refrigerated containers for perishable goods, tunnel containers with two doors on either side, making loading and unloading easier, and ISO containers for hazardous cargo.

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