Where were shipping containers invented? Our expert team answers all your shipping container questions based on their knowledge and experience!

Where were shipping containers invented?

The first standard modern shipping container was developed in the United States. The inventor was an American businessman by the name of Malcolm Purcell McLean.

McLean owned a trucking company. At the time, cargo was transported in wooden cases. These cases went through a process of several pick-ups and loads. Watching freight being moved from his trucks to ships, McLean realised that the process was time-consuming, costly, and unreliable.

McLean applied himself to developing a seamless and efficient approach to intermodal transport.

Standardizing the process of cargo transfer would benefit both the trucking and the shipping companies. He started by experimenting with more efficient ways of loading and unloading trucks. From this process, McLean developed what we now recognise as a standard shipping container.

In April 1956, the first container of this kind was used. It successfully transported goods from Port Newark to Houston.

It is fair to say that McLean revolutionized local and international transportation and trade from the 1950s onwards.

McLean’s shipping container design was (and remains) strong, secure, reliable, and easy to transport. Transport and trade was revolutionised!

Because containers are safe and secure, goods were less likely to be stolen or damaged during transport. Loading and unloading at ports requires a lot less labour because of the use of cranes. Ports have been altered to allow for larger ships and unloading facilities. And because the total conveyance time is greatly reduced, international trade is cheaper and quicker with modern shipping containers.

It is estimated that 90% of the world’s cargo is transported in modern shipping containers.