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7 Intriguing facts you probably didn’t know about shipping containers

by Container Traders

7 Intriguing facts you probably didn’t know about shipping containers 7 Intriguing facts you probably didn’t know about shipping containers

1. They started off existence built from wood

‘Loose’ boxes were designed to ship coal originally back in the late 1700’s; made from wood in roughly similar sizes they transported the coal from the quarries in England via horse-drawn wagons to canal barges. By the mid-1800’s iron was starting to be used in conjunction with wood – so the boxes were getting heavier and heavier. From there the container was developed further by many countries, from Poland in the early 1900’s with the first draft of container systems, to England and the US as a way to revitalise rail companies after the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Finally, Malcolm McLean in 1955 established a standardised unit with twist lock mechanisms on each corner to revolutionise shipping – and into the containers we know today.

2. They’re all built to standardised dimensions

After final conception in 1956, it took only 4 years to standardise them, and this is still in use today. Shipping containers are one of the only things that the world can agree on one form of measurement for! This is so that any shipping container sent or received to any country, can all fit together neatly and securely on cargo ships, reducing time to load and unload and wastage – this is called Intermodal Transport. 

3. 40’ Containers are the most popular

40-foot (12m) shipping containers account for over 90% of all containers in the world! Roughly 20 million containers are in use today, and it is estimated that there are over 43 million on the planet right now. If these were all laid end-to-end, they would circle the world almost twice!

4. They can fall off the container ships – into the ocean

Approximately 10 thousand are lost at sea every year, that is on average 1 every 53 minutes! And a shipping container will float, until the contents get waterlogged.

5. They can hold (and protect) a massive amount of everyday objects

A standard 20-foot shipping container can store the contents of a modest 2-3 bedroom home (think about these next time you move!) and a 40 foot container will generally hold the contents of a 4-5 bedroom home. In comparison, a 20ft container could hold around 48,000 bananas; versus a 40ft container, which can hold up to 8000 shoe boxes.

6. Yours is (most likely) made in China

Approximately 97% of all Shipping Containers are made in China – because of the lower labour costs.

7. They can’t be cross-contaminated

Once an ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) Container has been tagged for food, it can’t be used for any other types of cargo. The same goes for ISO Containers tagged for chemicals – to prevent contamination risk. Also – once a container has been tagged for chemicals, the type of chemical it can next transport will depend on the three previous chemicals it has transported.

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