Friday, January 27, 2012

History of Container & Ship Container

Container and Container ships are cargo ships that carry all of their load in truck-size intermodal containers, in a technique called containerization. They form a common means of commercial intermodal freight transport.

There are two main types of dry cargo: bulk cargo and break bulk cargo. Bulk cargoes, like grain or coal, are transported unpackaged in the hull of the ship, generally in large volume. Break-bulk cargoes, on the other hand, are transported in packages, and are generally manufactured goods. Before the advent of containerization in the 1950s, break-bulk items were loaded, lashed, unlashed and unloaded from the ship one piece at a time. However, by grouping cargo into containers, 1,000 to 3,000 cubic feet (28 to 85 m3) of cargo, or up to about 64,000 pounds (29,000 kg), is moved at once and each container is secured to the ship once in a standardized way. Containerization has increased the efficiency of moving traditional break-bulk cargoes significantly, reducing shipping time by 84% and costs by 35%. As of 2001, more than 90% of world trade in non-bulk goods is transported in ISO containers. In 2009, almost one quarter of the world's dry cargo was shipped by container, an estimated 125 million TEU or 1.19 billion metric tons worth of cargo.

Container vessels owe their existence to an American trucker by the name of Malcom McLean. In 1931, McLean purchased his first truck to send and pick up loads to and from vessels in various ports. Malcolm P. McLean, the "Father of Containerization", had the idea of rationalizing goods transport by avoiding the constant loading and unloading from one means of transport to another way back at the end of the 1930s at the port of Hoboken, when still operating as a small-scale hauler. To start with, McLean would load complete trucks onto ships, in order to transport them as close as possible to their destination. The development of standardized containers and trailers, moved by tractors, made it possible to ship just the trailers with the containers, so saving on space and costs. Later, the trailers were also left behind and the ships transported just the containers.

The earliest container ships were converted tankers, built up from surplus T2 tankers after World War II. In 1951 the first purpose-built container vessels began operating in Denmark, and between Seattle and Alaska. In 1955, McLean built his company, McLean Trucking into one of USA’s biggest freighter fleets. In 1955, he purchased the small Pan Atlantic Steamship Company from Waterman Steamship and adapted its ships to carry cargo in large uniform metal containers. The first container ship in the United States was the Ideal X, a T2 tanker, owned by McLean as the first ship designed to carry only containers is the "Maxton", a converted tanker, which could carry sixty containers as deck cargo, in April 1956. This left Newark on 26th April 1956 carrying 58 containers between Newark, New Jersey and Houston, Texas on its first voyage and a new revolution in modern shipping resulted.

Container vessels eliminate the individual hatches, holds and dividers of the traditional general cargo vessels. The hull of a typical container ship is a huge warehouse divided into cells by vertical guide rails. These cells are designed to hold cargo in pre-packed units – containers.

Shipping containers are usually made of steel, but other materials like aluminium, fibreglass or plywood are also used. They are designed to be entirely transferred to and from trains, trucks or trailers to and from a ship. There are several types of containers and they are categorised according to their size and functions.

Another decade passed before the first container ship moored in Europe. The first container on German soil was set down by the "Fairland" at Bremer √úberseehafen on 6th May 1966. The first containers used by SeaLand in Northern Europe were 35' ASA containers, i.e. they were constructed to American standards. In other regions, 27' ASA containers and other ASA dimensions were often used. Shipowners in Europe and Japan quickly recognized the advantages of the container and also invested in the new transport technology.

Since American standards could only be applied with difficulty to conditions in Europe and other countries, an agreement was eventually reached with the Americans after painstaking negotiations. The resulting ISO standards provided for lengths of 10', 20', 30' and 40'. The width was fixed at 8' and the height at 8' and 8' 6". For land transport within Europe, agreement was reached on a 2.50 m wide inland container, which is mainly used in combined road/rail transport operations.

The majority of containers used worldwide today comply with the ISO standard, with 20'- and 40'-long containers predominating. For some years, the ISO standard has come repeatedly under pressure. As stowage factors increase for most goods, many forwarders want longer, wider and higher containers, preferably all at once. Some shipowners have given in to the pressure and containers of dimensions larger than provided for by the ISO standard are now encountered distinctly more frequently. "Jumbo" containers of 45' and 48' in length, widths of 8'6" (2.60 m) and heights of 9'6" (2.90 m) have been in existence for some years. Efforts to build even larger containers, e.g. 24' (7.43 m) and 49' (14.40 m) boxes 2.60 m wide and 2.90 m high, are mostly confined to the USA. Even 53' long containers have been approved for use for some time throughout the USA, while some states will even allow 57'. In Europe and on other continents, narrower roads are a limiting factor. Developing countries are understandably against changing the standards. More details are given in the section entitled "Container dimensions and weights"

Today, approximately 90% of non-bulk cargo worldwide is transported by container, and modern container ships can carry up to 15,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU). As a class, container ships now rival crude oil tankers and bulk carriers as the largest commercial vessels on the ocean.

Coming back to McLean’s invention, while it is a well established fact that containerization caused a revolution in the world of shipping its introduction did not have an easy passage. Shipping lines, railway (railroad in the US) companies and trade unions vehemently opposed and tried to block the use of containerised ships. It took ten years of legal battles before container ships would be pressed into international service. In 1966, a container liner service from USA to the Dutch city of Rotterdam commenced.

Containerization changed not only the face of shipping but it also revolutionized world trade as well. A container ship can be loaded and unloaded in a few hours compared to days in a traditional cargo vessel. This, besides cutting labor costs, has reduced shipping times between points to a great extent, for example it takes a few weeks instead of months for a consignment to be delivered from India to Europe and vice versa. It has also resulted in less breakage due to less handling and there is less danger of cargo shifting during a voyage. As containers are sealed and only open at the destination, pilferage and theft levels have been greatly reduced.

Exporters load (stuff) their merchandise in boxes that are provided by the shipping companies. They are then delivered to the docks by road, rail or a combination of both for loading on to container ships. Prior to containerization, huge gangs of men would spend hours fitting various items of cargo into different holds.

Cranes, installed either on the pier or on the ship, are used to place containers on board the ship. When the hull is loaded, additional containers are stacked on the deck.

Containerization has lowered shipping costs and decreased shipping time, and this has in turn helped the growth of international trade. Cargo that once arrived in cartons, crates, bales, barrels or bags now comes in factory sealed containers, with no indication to the human eye of their contents, except for a product code that machines can scan and computers trace. This system of tracking has been so exact that a two week voyage can be timed for arrival with an accuracy of under fifteen minutes.

It has resulted in such revolutions as on time guaranteed delivery and just in time manufacturing. Raw materials arrive in factories in sealed containers less than an hour before they are required in manufacture, resulting in reduced inventory costs.

Today's largest container ships measure almost 400 metres (1,300 ft) in length. They carry loads equal to the cargo carrying capacity of sixteen to seventeen pre WWII freighter ships.


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  2. Container ships are one of the fastest ways of moving cargo across the world. All the packed goods are safely stored in truck-size metal containers. As the shipping industries continue to grow, technological advancement is integrated to improve the operations of the container ships and provide faster shipment to the customers.

    -Valentina Moors