What is Container Shipping?

Container shipping is the transportation of the cargoes by using standardized shipping containers (open top, flat rack, reefer, tank, standard dry, high cube) loaded on board of the ocean-going ships that mainly travel set routes on fixed schedules. The conventional cargo handling also is being done with boxes of “various types and sizes” before the container shipping industry emerged because they were the practical way to move things. Container shipping is different from conventional shipping because it uses 'containers' of various “standard sizes” - 20 foot (6.09 m), 40 foot (12.18 m), 45 foot (13.7 m). However conventional shipping was a labor-intensive work after World War II as it had been in the mid-1800s. On 26 April 1956, Malcom McLean's converted World War II tanker called the Ideal X into a container vessel. She made its maiden voyage from Port Newark to Houston in the USA. She had a reinforced deck carrying 58 metal containers. Six days after arriving to Houston the company received shipment orders to ship goods back to Port Newark in containers. Thus McLean's company known as Sea-Land Services owning ships carried laden trucks between Northern and Southern ports in the USA, took the first steps of the containerization. As early as 1960, international companies realized the importance of the container shipping began determining what the standard container sizes should be. In 1961, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) set standard sizes. The two most commonly used sizes even today, are the 20-foot and 40-foot lengths. The 20-foot container Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit (TEU) became the industry standard reference with cargo volume and vessel capacity now measured in TEUs. The 40-foot length container (2 TEUs) known as the Forty-foot Equivalent Unit (FEU) and is the most frequently used container today. The containership has important advantages to both merchants and shipping line operator. The cargo is safely loaded on board of semi-trailer at the shipper’s premises, sealed by the shipper themselves, and the consignment trucked to the port in a reasonable time period.  Then the cargo stays in a secure port area while awaiting the vessel that would transport it across the sea.  Furthermore, the containers are lifted on and off the sea going vessel by a ship to shore gantry crane which is reducing the ship turnaround time.