Shipping Containers: A Brief History

Shipping containers. They’re a ubiquitous part of our global economy. Most global consumer goods you own have a good chance of having been in a container at some point. Today’s supply chain, built around the shipping container, allows for an efficient distribution of goods worldwide. It hasn’t always been this way, though. In fact, the shipping container as we know it is only around 64 years old. Let’s take a look at the history of the shipping container.

1956: Malcolm McLean and the First Shipping Containers

1956 is an important year for the modern shipping container. This is when Malcolm McLean, owner of a large trucking company, launched the first voyage of a modern container. For decades, McLean had seen the inefficiency of transporting goods in non-standardized wooden crates during the operation of his company. He eventually purchased Pan Atlantic Tanker Company, a company with significant shipping assets, and experimented with ideas for standard shipping box designs. He eventually settled on the idea of a one-sized metal box. This design was sturdy, could be stacked, was easily transferred to trucks and trains for ground shipping, and was secure. In 1956, the ship Ideal X launched, becoming the first container ship to be used with modern containers.

Over the next several years, McLean worked to refine the shipping container design. Containers became fitted to interlock when stacking. He also implemented cranes at dock sites to speed up loading efficiency and safety. These innovations and others helped drive the popular use of container ships as viable methods of shipping.

1968: Modern Container Ships

1968 marks another important point in time for shipping containers. This is the year that the ISO imposed international standards for container dimensions and requirements. With this step, modern containers as we know them became widespread. This standard is relatively similar to standards for today, and is a key reason for mass shipping as we know it. With international standards in place, companies could maximize efficiency in the supply chain. As a result, the cargo shipping industry boomed through the 1970s and 1980s. This boom impacted other transportation modes in the chain too- trucks, trains and planes that carried goods after shipping by sea were transformed to maximize efficiency as well. With standards across multiple modes of transport, containers truly became the key to global shipping that they are today. By the end of the 20th century, shipping containers accounted for around 90% of all cargo globally.

Today and What’s Next

The start of the 21st century has seen continued technological innovations. Today, remote tracking systems are a core aspect of international shipping. Refrigerated shipping has become crucial for distributing fruit and vegetables around the globe, keeping goods cold for weeks at a time. Looking to the future, there are innovative ideas to utilize crewless container ships, blockchain technology, and further automatization to continue improving the industry.

Moon Trailer Leasing offers shipping containers to companies and organizations across Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee. We have containers both for rent and sale. Call 502-776-2199 today for a fast and free quote.

The doors of a shipping container

Shipping Containers: How They Are Made

Everyone relies on shipping containers – they haul goods all around the world. Shipping containers are a reliable way to transport nearly anything. So how are they designed to handle all of this work?

There’s an array of steps involved, and quite a bit of manual labor. Here’s a look at how shipping containers are built. 

1. Make Wall Panels

First, huge steel sheets are methodically cut to 8×3 feet rectangles by machines. These rectangular sheets will form the wall panels of containers. The sheets are then sandblasted and primed to remove any contaminants. Next, they are corrugated, giving them the wave-like texture that makes them so distinctive. This both helps increase their strength and makes them easier to stack. Roof panels and floor braces are made separately. Wall panels are then welded together, and square tubing is welded to the tops of wall panels.

2. Assemble Floor Frame

Next, two long I-beams are laid parallel to each other and welded to a number shorter I-beams that go between them perpendicularly. This forms a box-like frame for the floor of the container. 

3. Make Shipping Container Doors and Corner Posts

Doors are up next. Corrugated steel is cut to the proper size and welded to steel tubing around its borders; this creates a door. Each container will get two doors. Corner posts are then welded to I-beams, making a door frame. The two doors are then welded to the frame. 

4. Assemble the Shipping Containers

With all of the pieces created, it’s then time to construct the container. First, a crane lifts the door and lowers it to the floor frame, where it is installed by welding. Then, a crane lifts and slots in the wall panels, which get welded to the door, floor frame, and back wall frame. Last, the roof panel is lifted to the top of the container and welded on to complete the container’s structure. 

5. Paint and Prime

With the structure completed, the next step is to start the finishing touches. Primer is sprayed all around and inside the shipping container to make the container hold paint better, and get a slim layer of extra protection. Then, workers spray paint over the primer once it has dried. Several layers of paint are added in this fashion.

6. Fit Flooring

Keep in mind that at this point, there’s still no floor, just a frame! So, the next step is to install plywood flooring. The flooring is varnished before installation to strengthen it and prevent insects or pests from occupying the wood. Next, six finished plywood panels are fit into each container. Finally, workers drill holes around the borders of the panes and then attach them to the floor frame with steel screws.  

7. Add Decals, Identification, Logos

Any company logos or decals can be added to the sides of containers at this point. Workers apply adhesive stickers with the required designs or text. Additionally, containers are given unique identification codes, which are labelled on the outside of the container. 

8. Door finishing, Testing and Waterproofing the Shipping Containers

Workers next install locking mechanisms on container doors. They also waterproof the doors by installing seals around door edges. Next, the bottom of the container is sprayed with waterproofing sealant. 

After this, workers perform a test to ensure containers are waterproof. Containers are sprayed with water and then rigorously inspected on the interior for any signs of leaks. 

Check out this video to see all of the steps in action!

Moon Trailer Leasing offers shipping containers to companies and organizations across Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee. We have containers both for rent and sale. Call 502-776-2199 today for a fast and free quote.