Shipping containers are a very important part of our everyday lives without us even knowing it. Since shipping containers are generally out to sea or in some type of transit, we do not think about them often. Our world runs with the trade of goods and shipping containers are the main method of enabling that trade to take place. Many people do not know these interesting stats about shipping containers:
They are Made in China
Around 97% of all the shipping containers that exist in this world are made in China(2) along with a large portion of the manufactured goods.
Invented by Malcolm McLean
The first shipping container was created in 1955 by Malcolm McLean(3) who wanted to invent something that could be stacked and lifted onto cargo ships. He gave his patent away for free so that people around the world could create and use them.
Shipping Containers are Leased and Owned
Around 50% of the world’s supply of shipping containers are owned by the companies that ship them. The remainder are leased, and that lease can be anywhere between one year up to ten years.
Cold Goods Are Shipped in Sealed Containers
Cargo that needs to be kept cold are shipped in special containers called reefers. These are sealed so that they keep a constant temperature, but they are not actually refrigerated so they do not make their own cool air. They are simply designed to keep the temperature inside the container constant and the cool air circulates inside the container.
Shipping Containers are Measured in TEUs
The standard size of a shipping container is 20 feet or a Twenty Foot Equivalent Unit – TEU. Some are 40 feet which is equal to 2 TEUs.
The Volume of a Shipping Container
One 20-foot shipping container has the equivalent volume of 1,170 cubic feet. The larger 40-foot containers offer 2,700 cubic feet of storage.
Are Shipping Containers Tracked?
There is only one shipping line that includes GPS on each of its 27,000 shipping containers and that is Maersk.
Are Other Tracking Methods Used?
Each shipping container has a unit number assigned to it. This unique number has a 4-digit prefix, with the first three numbers being the owner, the fourth number is the category (generally a U which means unit freight container). Following that prefix there is a serial number containing six numbers and a check number which follows a mathematical formula. By using this ID tag, the location of the container can be tracked as it moves around the world.
Some Containers are Never Checked
There is a massive amount of shipping containers that move around the world daily and that means that not every container is inspected. Only between 2 and 10% of shipping containers are ever actually inspected(4).
Shipping Containers Get Lost at Sea
Out on the open ocean the weather is extreme. Sometimes the shipping containers are pitched over the side of a boat if it rolls over the waves and sometimes containers are lost due to accidents. It is believed that somewhere between 2,000 and 10,000 shipping containers are lost at sea every year(5).
What Happens to Shipping Containers that Fall off a Boat?
Shipping containers that fall off a boat do not always sink, in fact many of them float. The issue is that these containers tend to float just below the water’s surface with means that most boats that come close to them do not see them until it is too late. These containers are solid and can cause a great deal of damage to a ship that runs into one. Containers do sink eventually, a 20-foot container can float for about 57 days while a 40-foot container floats for 171 days(6).
Sometimes Container Contents Show up on Land
When shipping containers are lost at sea their contents can sometimes end up finding their way to the shore. These contents are usually something that floats including running shoes, rubber ducks or aerosol cans of toxic substances.
There are Many Shipping Containers in the World
There are more than 17 million shipping containers that are in active use worldwide(7). These containers make an estimated 200 million trips annually. This is how enormous the scale of trade is in today’s world.
ISO Shipping Containers
The ISO tank is not the same as a standard shipping container, it is used for shipping liquids. Once a tank has carried food it cannot be used to ship any other kind of cargo. Similarly, tanks used to transport chemicals cannot transport any other item. The type of chemical that can be shipped inside of a container depends on what last three chemicals it was used for.
Shipping Container Ships are Massive and Expensive
The ships used to carry all the shipping containers costs over $235 billion US dollars. They can carry massive amounts of containers and the cost of shipping is about $2.00 per mile(8).
Shipping Containers Have Many Uses
Shipping containers can be used to build tiny homes, for extra storage, restaurants, hotels, stores, portable toilets, student housing and swimming pools. The list is long and is only limited by your imagination. Many people like to rent the containers to be used as temporary storage units.
Shipping Containers are Durable
A shipping container does not require that much care, just some maintenance and can last for up to 20 years. The investment is not too expensive for something that lasts for such a long time when compared to wood or other materials.
Low Cost Way to Transport Goods
Up to 95 percent of all the world’s cargo(8) is moved by container ship, all of it inside of shipping containers. The cost of transportation is quite high, but the efficiency and speed of shipping cannot be duplicated by any other method.
Shipping containers are versatile, from being used as a container to move goods to being used as a unit to be transformed into something else after shipping. The shipping container is recognized anywhere in the world as a very useful item. If you could use a shipping container, get in touch with a local shipping container supplier, they can hook you up with a solid inventory of shipping containers.