Who Invented Shipping Containers?

Shipping containers have been around since the 1950s, but who invented them? In this article, we will discuss some of the most popular theories about their invention, and we will then explore the question in a bit more detail.

As the shipping industry boomed in the 1950s, it became clear that standardization was needed. Before containers, trains would carry goods, and then workers would unload them onto trucks. This process took hours of work and many more hours waiting at terminals before loading the goods onto other ships. It also made it challenging to keep up with transportation schedules.

In the 1940s, American trucking magnate Malcom McLean had a revolutionary idea. After studying ship sizes and cargo volumes across multiple industries, he determined that certain dimensions would work very well for shipping containers. He took his ideas to steelmaker Walter Reuther who helped him develop them further. In 1956, they created the prototype of an intermodal container.

Others involved with shipping container invention

Many other people have been credited with inventing shipping containers, including John B. Kennedy and Malcolm Pye of the British company Sea-Land Service in 1964 and Swedish engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin of American Machine & Foundry in 1956. 

There is no “right” answer as to who invented the shipping container, but all of these individuals played a role.

Some people believe that the British in 1971 are to blame for not recognizing McLean’s invention and consequently losing out on a lucrative international trade market. Others argue that it was John B. Kennedy who invented them after meeting Walter Reuther at an International Business Machines conference in 1961. 

The truth is probably much more complicated than that. The answer to “who invented shipping containers?” is not as straightforward as one might think. Many people made pivotal contributions to its invention, and it’s possible McLean didn’t even come up with the idea on his own. However, he did make the important contribution of developing a prototype for intermodal containers.

When were shipping containers invented?

As mentioned above, shipping containers can trace their origins back to the 1950s. In 1955, Robert Faludi built a prototype for an intermodal container system in Los Angeles that could be used for transportation and storage.

In 1956, Malcolm McLean patented using metal cargo boxes as transport units loaded and unloaded through doors at each end. McLean’s idea was revolutionary and quickly spread worldwide, as ship owners realized that containers were a quick, efficient way to carry goods from one place to another with no loss of cargo space.

In 1967, Mclean pioneered containerization by implementing it on an epic scale when he moved across the Pacific Ocean with a shipment of containers.

Shipping containers have evolved to be more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient, but they still play an essential role in global commerce today.

Modern usage of storage containers

The shipping container has changed the way we do business all around the world. It’s not just about transporting goods across oceans, but also over rivers and railroads. In fact, it is estimated that 85% of all cargo is transported by truck as opposed to shipping because of the increased speed in transport time.

Without the invention of shipping containers, international trade would be much more difficult. While the containers were initially invented for moving goods, shipping containers are now used worldwide in residential and commercial applications. Many people use shipping containers for storage, while others use them to create office buildings, and some even customize them.

Where to rent or purchase shipping containers

Anyone who needs to store goods in a weather-tight container can find the perfect storage container at Jake Containers. Shipping containers have many applications in the construction industry, the hospitality industry, commercial and industrial, and municipal and government. The truth is, they have hundreds of practical uses, so owning one will always provide many benefits to the owner. Contact us today at Jake Containers in South Kearny, NJ to inquire about renting or purchasing your own storage container.

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