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Where Did Shipping Containers Come from?

Everyone has seen shipping containers: On the back of lorries, stacked up at ports and industrial parks, outside warehouses, and recently all over the news, as 20,000 of them were trapped in the Suez Canal. They have become the means by which goods are transported all around the world.

They have become a common sight in towns and cities too, with housing being made from old shipping containers, and trendy food, drink, and shopping complexes making use of shipping containers.

But how did they come to be?

Back in the 1950s, trucking magnate Malcom McLean was frustrated enough with the speed of shipping and started a commercial shipping company in order to move goods up and down the US eastern seaboard a little faster.

Within ten years, the containers he used had become standardised, and the first international container ship set sail across the Atlantic, taking guns to Europe, and Whisky to America.

What was once a slow and unreliable method of moving goods in barrels, bags, and boxes became a streamlined operation, one that now moves millions of identical containers full of unfathomable miscellany each year.

Standard ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) shipping containers are 8ft (2.43m) wide, 8.5ft (2.59m) high and come in two lengths; 20ft (6.06m) and 40ft (12.2m). Extra tall shipping containers called high-cube containers are available at 9.5ft (2.89m) high.

There are also smaller 10ft (2.99m) and 8ft (2.43m) containers, but they cannot be shipped in the same way as 20ft and 40ft containers.

A standard 20ft shipping container has a capacity of 33.1 cubic meters, which is enough room to carry nearly 100 washing machines!

They can be modified to suit a wide range of purposes, from insulated or refrigerated containers for transporting food, ones with doors at either end, or along the side, and even ones with no doors, but a removal roof, or lid for moving loose goods such as grain.

Today you can buy used shipping containers to put them to a wide range of uses, so get in touch today to find out more.

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