Today, a considerable percentage of global commerce revolves around full container load shipping. Standardized, uniform, reliable standards permit companies to pack a wide variety of goods securely in enclosed numbered shipping containers that can travel over highways pulled by semi-trucks for transport into the holds of container vessels or onto the smooth surfaces of railroad flat cars. Computerized databases track these items through the entire transportation system, noting vital logistical information for buyers and sellers. This efficient method of moving goods between distant places helped spur the development of global trade. This modern high tech industry possesses a fascinating history.
The Father of the Modern Shipping Container
One of the people who played a very significant role in the development of today's freight transportation systems was a truck driver named Malcolm McLean. He began working as a trucker during the 1930s. By the mid-1950s, he owned a fleet of trucks, and his company had become the fifth largest freight hauling trucking firm in the United States.
Mr. McLean noticed that his employees had to expend a lot of time maneuvering shipping crates and cartons to fit securely on their trucks. He resolved the problem by inventing the modern shipping container as a uniform, easily maneuvered portable item for transporting goods long distances. His efforts greatly assisted full container load shipping as a field. In 1958, he obtained Patent No. 2,853,968 from the United States Patent Office.
The Advantages of Shipping Containers
Uniform and standardized shipping containers offer several advantages to merchants. Just consider a few of these benefits:
- Shipping containers reduce theft and pilferage during transit;
- They facilitate a completely automated shipping process, without the requirement of being opened at each stop;
- Shipping containers offer better protection for shipped items than a variety of crates and cartons;
- These containers can store items temporarily, eliminating the need for warehouse facilities;
- The standardization promotes efficiency;
- Full container load shipping saves customers money;
- Shipping containers eliminate delays at operational ports of entry.
With so many advantages provided by standardized modern shipping containers, it does not seem surprising that the Maritime Hall of Fame in 2000 awarded Malcolm McLean, founder of the Sea-Land Company, the high honor of being designated "Man of the Century" in recognition of his contributions to modern transportation and shipping.