Please Explain: Shipping Containers and How Cargo Moves around the World

Friday, February 07, 2014

Container shipping began 50 years ago and developed into a huge industry that has made the boom in global trade possible. Marc Levinson, author of The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, tells us how cargo moves around the works, and looks at the sweeping economic consequences containerization brought about.


Marc Levinson

Comments [14]

geoffrey Fulton architect from australia & the world

Containers are the perfect solution to disaster like Haiti. They provide immediate safe housing, where the occupants can start by "camping " in the box, then gradually fit it out any way they like. The structure is sound, its, earthquake, hurricane and fire safe. Containers are not eaten by termites, They are not thief friendly. You can stack 10 of them on top of each other and they are inexpensive to buy and they are not slum dwelling. Your container based house can be as luxurious as you want to make it. We have plenty of examples on n(not .com). And we will design container houses for anyone who has lost a home due to storm or earthquake anywhere in the world free of charge.

Feb. 18 2014 07:00 PM
Estelle from Brooklyn

Could abandoned containers be collected and converted into shelters for places like Haiti where people still live in tents?

Feb. 07 2014 01:57 PM
Matt K from Brooklyn

a little self promotion...

I wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal about tourism by cargo ship:

Has Mr. Levinson traveled by cargo ship?

Feb. 07 2014 01:55 PM
Louis in Buffalo

Listening to the program, I was reminded of the "Ashes & Snow" site-specific exhibition along the westside piers in the early 2000's as a beautifully creative re-use of stacked and contiguous shipping containers along the environs where they were once used.

Feb. 07 2014 01:50 PM
Tom O'Hara from Malverne, Long Island

The way you deal with giant containerships is you have them run between "hub" ports, and then transfer the containers to smaller containerships running to the smaller ports. Same thing in reverse: smaller ships bringing the cargo into the hub ports to be transferred to the big ships heading to hub ports overseas. Sealand was doing that back in the 70s. We had ships (the SL-7s)then that were nearly 1,000 feet long. We ran them between Port Elizabeth (NJ) and Felixstowe (England) and Rotterdam. Same on the West Coast: Long Beach to hubs in Asia. We had smaller ships (including some converted WWII tankers)running from Port Elizabeth to smaller ports on the East Coast, the cAribbean and the Gulf Coast. I'm sure that's what they still do now.

Feb. 07 2014 01:48 PM
Hilary Sweeney from New York

Longshore man is thought to come from the Irish language word "Loingseoir" which means man who works with ships, the sea, a mariner, sailor etc.
Long, Loinge is the Irish word for ship, the word ending "eoir" mean one who works with...

Many Irish immigrants worked on docks.

Feb. 07 2014 01:46 PM
Jaime from ellenville, ny

The container age could not really start until there was a computer system to keep track of them all. Without it the loading and unloading and inventory took too much time and cost

Feb. 07 2014 01:41 PM
Hilary Sweeney from New York

Longshore man is thought to come from the Irish language word "Loingseoir" which means man who works with ships, the sea, a mariner, sailor etc.
Long, Loinge is the Irish word for ship.

Many Irish immigrants works on the docks.

Feb. 07 2014 01:40 PM
Tom O'Hara from Malverne

As someone who worked in the 1970s as a marine operations coordinator at the company that pioneered container shipping-- Sealand (now Maersk)-- I fully appreciate how much more efficient shipping is as a result of the container revolution. (Those 35-footers were a pain in the butt!) That said, as a former merchant mariner who sailed as a cadet and then a ship's officer at the tail end of the breakbulk shipping era, I have to say that containerization also killed much of the romance of going to sea, not least because stays in port are now measured in hours rather than days and even weeks,as they were in the old days. No time to see anything of the countries and cultures you visit.

Feb. 07 2014 01:35 PM

for a great look at the New York docks and the brutal lives of the longshoremen from a century ago, particularly the Irish laborers who lived around the Brooklyn docks in what now is DUMBO, take a look at the new novel by Eamon Loingsigh, "Light of the Diddicoy"

Feb. 07 2014 01:35 PM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

So when do we take the next step and build high speed rail from major ports to cities with population of 1M or more? How much over the road traffic could we eliminate in twenty years if we really tried to do it?

Feb. 07 2014 01:34 PM

Can you talk about the topic of containers falling off of boats in the ocean?

Feb. 07 2014 01:33 PM

I am completely obsessed by turning shipping containers into homes and other buildings. You wouldn't believe all the websites and blogs dedicated to this.

Feb. 07 2014 01:28 PM
Bobby G from Bobby G

Shipping containers are largely responsible for the transformation of Soho into what it is today.

Tractor trailers hauling containers could not maneuver the narrow streets so manufacturing had to move out.

Feb. 07 2014 01:01 PM

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