Celebrating the shipping container Birthday, 26 April 1956


(www.MaritimeCyprus.com) It is universally recognized as one of the greatest inventions of the modern world, one that completely changed the way in which business has been done since the 20th century and really and truly made the world a smaller place and the one true architect of Globalization.

People know it through its many variants such as – Container, Box, TEU, FEU, Units.. It is capable of taking many sizes and shapes such as 20′, 40′, 45′, GP, HQ, OT, FR, RF etc etc etc.

containers stack

The ubiquitous CONTAINER without which we may not be as connected as we are today has become an integral part of our life.

How it all started? Malcom McLean & Keith Tantlinger:

Malcom Mclean an American trucking company owner/trucker turned inventor and Mechanical Engineer Keith Tantlinger got together to create the first shipping container.

container patent

Patent for modern shipping container.

After many discussions and plans, the first lot of 58 containers were loaded on board the SS Ideal X, a converted World War II oil tanker, on 26th April 1956.

container ideal-malcom-keith-1

Thus began the journey of the shipping container and there has been no turning back for containerization since then.

In due course, ISO standards were set for containers and this enabled mass production and usage of standardised containers which also enabled the ports, container terminals and handling equipment to be standardized across the globe, the evolution of which has resulted in the current mega-ships capable of carrying more than 20,000 TEUs on a single ship.

containers in port

Benefits of containerisation ranges from

  • Improved and quicker handling of cargo
  • Flexibility of cargo operation
  • Door to Door movement using same unit
  • Cargo security
  • Intermodal and multimodal operations allowing cargo to reach every nook and cranny of the world whether by sea or land
  • Cheaper per unit shipping which savings could be passed on to consumers

container graphAs per Clarksons Reasearch, from 1971-1996 (20 years after containers first came in to being), there was 41 million TEUs of additional trade generated with about 3 million TEUs of container capacity delivered to serve the global industry..

From 1997 till 2016, this increased to 136 million TEUs of additional trade with 20 million TEU capacity delivered.

Containerisation has also enabled end to end seamless supply chain possibilities which has created further growth, employment and developmental opportunities.


Not just in shipping, containers are now used in many countries to create affordable and cheap housing and also give them a second life.

Lastly the below infographic takes a look at how innovative thinkers around the world are using some of the 300 million shipping containers that currently sit empty and unused. While most people think of obvious solutions like recycling the raw materials, a few architects have used these storage containers to construct modern buildings. Enjoy….



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