International Standardised Containerisation for Shipping Import & Export Services is 60 years old!

April 26th 1956, is widely regarded when standardised containers were first used to transport cargo by sea.

The idea of putting cargo into containers, in this case, ones that were 35ft long and uniformed– was the brainchild of trucking magnate Malcolm McLean, who figured that shipping conventionally would cost $5.83 a ton compared with less than $0.16 a ton on vessel Ideal- X.

It was not the first container ship, however. The Clifford J. Rodgers, operated by the White Pass and Yukon Route, made its debut in 1955.

General characteristics of Ideal-X
Class and type: T2-SE-A1
Tonnage: 16,460 GRT
Length: 524 ft (160 m)
Beam: 30 ft (9.1 m)
Height: 68 ft (21 m)
Propulsion: Elliot Company steam turbine, electric propulsion
Capacity: ·58 33-foot containers

·10,572 DWT

The converted WWII tanker Ideal-X was the first commercially successful cargo ship that sailed from Newark, New Jersey to Houston, Texas, carrying 58 aluminium containers on its decks, along with petroleum in its hold.

Mr Mclean went on to found Sea-Land Services, and for many years was the trailblazer as containerisation opened up new markets and gradually connected every corner of the world to the global economy.

Like so many of these early pioneers of container shipping mostly form the US, Sea-Land no longer exists, except as a small regional brand.

Today, it is the European lines that dominate the box trades.

Maersk Line, which is a relative late starter in the containerisation world has recently led the way in ship developments, with vessels of up to 20,000 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit) now in service. Containers are no longer 35ft in length, which fitted US standard truck sizes at the time, but are now 20ft, 40ft and even 45ft.

 

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