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The Evolution and History of Shipping Containers - Part 2

The Present-Day Ocean Container - Part 2 in a 3-part series.

How would you answer if I asked you to name five innovations that significantly affected everyday life in the 20th century?

Perhaps you might list the smart phone or personal computer, the internet, automobiles and airplanes, antibiotics, or the television. Undoubtedly, no two people would list the same things. There are too many possibilities. However, there is one common thread among nearly all consumer innovations of the past 50 years - at one time, they traveled somewhere across the globe in a standardized ocean shipping container.History and Evolution of the Shipping Container Part 2

The Container Today

In Part 1 of this series, we focused on the history of these colorful boxes and how they became the container of today - a powerful force in our global economy. Because of the container, consumer goods are delivered to people across the globe more economically than ever. It is possible to manufacture a pair of shoes in China and ship them via a container ship to a port on the US West coast, offload them to a truck or rail, transport them across the US and finally, deliver the goods to a boutique in Miami. Incredibly, despite traveling thousands of miles and billions spent on material investment for ships, rail trucks and infrastructure, that pair of shoes is still priced within the affordable reach of most consumers.

Endless Motion

Millions of containers are in motion around the globe, the possibilities for containerized cargo movement are staggering in scope. Imagine the cargo of a Triple E Class container ship, capable of carrying 18,000 TEU' (20-foot equivalent units) containers. If you were to stack them two high per car, they would fill 30 trains, each a mile long. Those trains might be filled with containers of many types, each designed for a specific type of cargo. In addition to common dry storage box containers, this line of trains might include flat rack and open top containers - suitable for special project cargo such as heavy machinery that must be loaded from the top or the sides. 

Tanks, used to transport liquid cargo, are another common type of container just as refrigerated or reefer containers that are used to transport perishable cargo over long distances. Special use containers are also available to accommodate any cargo type from designer shoes to diesel engines.

Home Sweet Containers

Capable of such versatility and functionality, it is no surprise that the shipping container of today has become something more than just a box to move cargo. 

Eco-conscious architects and engineers have become increasingly interested in the potential of shipping containers as low-cost, green housing solutions. Amazing examples of designer housing, made from reused shipping containers, can be found in urban and rural environments. From beach retreats to rustic cabins, the container proves itself as a versatile and marvelous foundation for creative living. In addition to housing applications, containers are also used as office space, student dorm apartments and playgrounds.

Developers also utilize containers, specifically designed for disaster relief, in the form of emergency housing and support. Such containers can be quickly deployed as emergency power generators to a disaster area. Completely contained within a 20' container they feature an entire solar array complete with wire and cables. Similar solutions exist that also serve as self-contained mobile clinics in disaster struck areas.

From humble beginnings, the ocean container has emerged as something much more than just a box to facilitate the movement of cargo. It has become a catalyst for global change.

In our third and final installment of this series, the evolution and history of shipping containers, we will discuss what the container of tomorrow might deliver. 


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Not all cargo will fit in a standard shipping container. Learn more about Vantec Hitachi Transport's expertise in moving special project cargo. Download a .pdf Version of our Blog "Special Project Cargo - When a Container  Won't do"
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