Containerization was a modernization movement started by Sea Land in the 1970s. Sea Land recognized the inherent inefficiency in Breakbulk shipping and decided to try and change it. They did. Containers are those 8 X 8 X 20 foot or 8 X 8 X 40 foot boxes that are at every port. They hold several advantages over the previously used breakbulk system of stowage. Containers are more efficient for many types of goods. Oil, grain, ore and other bulk goods are still shipped as loose cargo. Almost all others are containerized. It is more efficent to load 50 rolls of newsprint paper in a container and ship it from Canada to Taipei then to load 50 rolls by hand, separately. Also, containers offer much more protection for goods carried at sea.

Container shipping developed slowly. it was first tested by Malcom McLean. It was used by Sea Land, Maersk, and some Japanese shippers at first. Once the ISO standardised the size of containers, they were put into almost universal use, carrying almost 80% of all goods other then bulk materials like oil and grain by 1986.


Container shipping is the shipping of goods in standardised containers. This is much more efficent then Breakbulk shipping. Containers are standardised boxes in which almost all goods are shipped today. Oil, grain, ore and bulk goods are still shipped loose for the most part.

Containers come in many forms. There are refridgerator containers, tanker containers, even grain containers with hatches at the top for grain shoots. All containers are 8 feet wide. There are no other widths. This is because they have to fit in slots in container ships. Having multiple widths would create problems with stowing them securely. Height and length are variable. All dimensions refer to the outside of a container. Containers come in 20, 40 and occasionally 45 foot lengths. They come in 4, 8, and 9 foot 6 inch heighths. Pig iron, or other heavy, dense goods with a low stowage factor are carried in 4 foot tall 20 foot long containers, as the cranes at docks can't handle anything heavier. Lighter goods, such as Ikea lamps are carried in 40 by 8 foot containers. The 9 foot 6 inch containers are usually used for oversized goods only, as they wont fit through many tunnels when on a truck. Same thing for the 45 foot containers.

I mainly used Marine Cargo Operations, by Saurbier and Meurn.

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