The invention of the century

The invention of the century

Wed, 06 Feb 2019 min reading

Thanks to shipping containers, we can drink affordable Argentine Cabernet Sauvignon and order cheap phone cases from China. And when containers are discarded? They get a second life as food trucks, bridges or flagship stores. No wonder there are currently 20 million containers in circulation. These 5 facts prove that the container can rightly be called the invention of the twentieth century!

1. Malcolm McLean was the biggest inventor of the 20th century

Malcolm McLean can easily be mentioned in the same breath as Thomas Edison, Alexander Bell and Nikola Tesla. In 1956, McLean, who was an American, invented the shipping container. Ports were hugely clogged up at the time as goods came in all kinds of shapes and sizes. As a result, it could take days for a ship to leave port.

McLean's solution: a giant metal box that always has the same sizes and features. In other words, the shipping container. They can be stacked and picked up or transported by all cranes, ships, trains and trucks. 

The result? A huge boost to world trade. Even bigger than all the trade agreements of the past 50 years, according to The Economist. That’s why we, and many others, believe that the container is the invention of the twentieth century.

2. A thousand oranges sent more cheaply than a letter

Transport by container is incredibly cheap. For example, sending a letter to Thailand is more expensive than shipping a thousand oranges to the country. This is partly because a container can hold a huge amount of goods – for example, 18,000 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon or 8,000 shoe boxes – and the largest seagoing vessels can carry more than 20,000 containers. 

The world's largest container ship, the OOCL Hong Kong, even holds 21,413 containers. More steel was required to build this 400-metre long ship than for eight Eiffel Towers. Nice piece of shipbuilding, right?

3. Airy cargo

The most commonly transported item in containers? Unfortunately, it’s air. Approximately one third of all containers are transported empty. Marginal loads such as waste paper are often put in to fill the gap.

4. You can build with – and on – containers

Think out of the box by moving into one! Containers make ideal building blocks for houses. Container houses, for example, are environmentally friendly, can be built faster than regular houses and are relatively inexpensive (just take a look at the container prices in our webshop). In addition, they are stackable, durable, customisable and easy to move.

There is even a word for architecture based on containers: cargotecture. And this can produce amazing buildings, such as Barneveld Noord station which is made of eight shipping containers.

5. A second life

With any luck, a container will experience twenty glorious years on a ship, train or truck. Every year, some 800,000 containers are retired. They will end up on the scrap heap, melted down or creatively reused. For example, they are being used to create food trucks, giant bridges or tower-high flagship stores. 
Ready for your shipping container? Visit our webshop. Need a container temporarily? If so, renting a container would be a good solution. Will you go for a brand-new container, or adopt a used one?

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Do you want to buy a container? The containers are available in our webshop for an affordable price!

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