Development of Containerization

Success through Vision, Drive and Technology


Van Ham, J.C.,
Rijsenbrij, J.C.

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Delft University Press


This book deals with the revolution of containerization, a breakthrough in maritime transport. Until World War II, maritime transport and transshipment of general cargo had been virtually unchanged for decades. Mechanization and the introduction of small unit loads improved productivity and working conditions in the shipping business. A real breakthrough came from outside the maritime sector: railway and trucking companies launched the transportation of ‘vehicle-sized’ loads.

Malcom McLean, a trucking magnate who had acquired the Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corporation, envisaged land-sea-land services, door-to-door, with ‘trailer bodies’. He equipped two of his tankers with spar decks and purchased 200 aluminum containers. On April 26, 1956 the Ideal X left the port of New York with 58 containers destined for Houston. This event triggered a revolution in maritime general cargo transport: ‘containerization’. Economies of scale, enhanced transshipment, no pilferage and less damage resulted in fast and low cost transportation. Over time, containerization accelerated the growth of worldwide trade and facilitated just-in-time logistics. Nowadays containerized transport is a real utility, indispensable for a global economy.

Development of Containerization shows how the container-sector coped with the challenges it was facing. Entrepreneurial spirit and technological creativity were at the core of its success. The authors uniquely combine these two elements: the general economic and transport developments are chronologically structured per decade and pivotal technological changes are described in greater detail. The text is illustrated with many pictures because ‘seeing is believing’. The book is of interest to students in transportation, designers of terminals and intermodal transport systems and all those who are fascinated by the spectacular impact of containerization.

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