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Origins of Containerization - Storage Container

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The use of shipping or storage containers, known as containerization, is indispensable in global trade today. As The Economist puts it, “containers have been more important to globalization than freer trade”. Despite the alternative uses storage containers may have, they remain being key to guarantee efficiency during shipping. It is hard to imagine a trading industry in which storage containers do not exist, but the truth is that they weren’t officially invented until the 1960s. As the storage containers Chicago’s leading company, we feel that we must educate our clients in every single aspect related to containerization.


During thousands of years, people have been trading goods across oceans. Before containerization, people used sacks, barrels and wooden crates to pack their goods so they could be shipped. Although it worked, it was not an efficient process. Ships could easily spend more time at the ports than the actual sea because the process of loading and unloading was an arduous one. Also, there was a high risk for accidents, theft and loss of the merchandise. In the 18th century, with the popularization of railways, the use of this means of shipping became a big issue. The cargo had to be transferred from ships to trains and vice versa. Since there was no standardization at all in these respects, it was a highly inefficient process.

First Shipping Containers

Although, to certain extent, people had started to use containers for shipping, it was not until 1956 that containerization as we know it today arose. Malcom P. McLean, an American businessman, bought a steamship company with the purpose of transporting truck trailers with cargo in ships. He realized that by using this method, he would reduce all the risks associated with shipping across oceans. The idea was to use the same container with the same cargo during the entire shipment, almost without interruption. This proved to be highly efficient and more people began to use it.


Because of the increasing use of storage containers and their indispensability, it was necessary to create global standards. By 1961, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) established standard sizes, which still exist today. Thanks to this, it became much easier and efficient to ship via containers. And, in consequence, the transportation of goods between countries started to be made using shipping containers.

Today, containerization continues being the backbone of global trade. Moreover, storage containers are now used not only to ship goods, but also for multiple purposes.

To learn about everything related to containerization, call Great Lake Kwik Space at 800-966-1016. As one of the best storage containers Chicago’s company, we have a team of experts that will guide through the container’s world.

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