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Celebrating 50 years of containerisation

The shipping industry is the foundation of international trade, advancing global markets and being at the forefront of globalisation.

However, while ship design has continuously improved throughout the decades, up until 50 years ago freight transport systems significantly lagged behind, remaining unchanged for hundreds of years.

Until the 1960’s heralded in a new era for global cargo transport, wharves were dangerous, labor-heavy sites, laden with vast amounts of miscellaneous cargo, and packing and unpacking was a laborious and costly endeavor.

In 1957 transport entrepreneur, Malcolm McLean took a radical approach to reinventing the inefficient cargo transport process by developing containers for a new stowage system on ships. Manpower was reduced, nets and crates disappeared and vessels’ hull capacities were maximized.

The dramatic overhaul to the dynamics of cargo handling was revolutionary with many global trade contenders following suit, implementing containers within a few short years.

The containers have since enabled ports to mechanise the loading and unloading process and to utilise digital technology; streamlining trade by reducing transit time, intensive labor, and inventory costs.

Since the advent of ‘the box’ world trade has quadrupled with over 20 million containers currently in constant circulation around the globe.

Their arrival also initiated the application of the Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU’s) measurement; astonishingly, the largest vessels in operation today have a capacity of over 20,000 TEU’s.

“Containers have made shipping a much simpler venture than it used to be. It’s given our industry the opportunity to keep up with technology and consumer demands” said National Cargo Product Manager, Nick Rowley.

“Once sealed, a container provides a physical barrier to well-packed cargo against bad weather, temperature variations, theft and the impacts of handling,” he added.

Previously, the cost of shipping freight averaged 20% of the total market delivery cost, but now only equates to 1%, thanks to the standardisation of the shipping container size and commercial processes.

The globe currently relies on 90% of goods to be imported via ship and Australia is no exception. Our nation’s increased ability to trade was a direct result of Australia’s adoption of container technology, meaning that over the past 50 years, Australia has experienced unprecedented international trade growth.

Containers have inarguably strengthened our local economy by increasing competitiveness, connecting small businesses to international consumers and priming the market for export.

Rounding Up is a company that has released a short documentary on the 50th anniversary of the first international door-to-door container service that arrived in Australia in 1969. It highlights the essential role of international shipping in everyday life in the 21st Century. Watch it below.

Speak to your local broker today about covering your cargo with Marine Protect. View our comprehensive Cargo Protect policy here.

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