Commercial Business Advice


Standard shipping containers are a common sight and widely used across quite a few industries. It seems as if they’ve always been around to transport products. Access to a container with standardized dimensions is invaluable for loading, unloading and transporting good effectively and efficiently all different means of transport. However, this invention can be traced back to a single person. Prior to shipping containers, freight was maneuvered manually as bulk cargo. Goods were processed through a series of pick-ups and loads as they moved from factory to vessel and vessel to warehouse and onward. These steps involved a great deal of handling, time and delays. It was costly and not dependable. Shipping containers first appeared at the end of the 18th century for combined rail and horse-drawn transport in Britain. By the 1830’s, containers were widely used by the railroads and were suitable for other modes of transport. The US Army used small versions of today’s containers during WWII to speed up distribution of supplies. Malcolm McLean invented and patented the first standardized shipping container in 1956. He owned the largest trucking company in the United States at that time. He had the ingenuous ideal of improving intermodal transportation. He’d spent years dealing with loading and unloading cargo in different sized wooden cases. He noticed the labor-intensive process of dock workers unloading freight from trucks and moving it to ships. He recognized that both his trucking company and shipping companies would benefit from a standardized process of cargo transfer. He purchased Pan Atlantic Tanker Company and the associated shipping assets. He began tinkering with improved ways to load and unload trucks. He eventually developed what is now recognized as a shipping container