How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger


June 11, 2006

June 12, 2006 Last month was the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of one of the most important inventions of our time - the shipping container. That first step, where a refitted oil tanker carried fifty-eight shipping containers from Newark to Houston in April, 1956, heralded a better way of transporting goods that has supercharged global trade. A new book tells the story of the container's creation and the sweeping economic consequences of the sharp fall in transportation costs that containerization brought about. By making shipping so cheap that industry could locate factories far from its customers, the container paved the way for Asia to become the world's workshop and brought consumers a previously unimaginable variety of low-cost products from around the globe.

The book is written by Marc Levinson, a former finance and economics editor of the Economist, is entitled “The Box”, and is published by Princeton University Press. It recounts how the drive and imagination of an iconoclastic entrepreneur, Malcom McLean, turned containerization from an impractical idea into a massive industry that slashed the cost of transporting goods around the world.

There’s a video interview with Marc Levinson here and an excellent article in the Sydney Morning Herald and the book is naturally available on Amazon.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, (Australia's largest Telco), (Australia's largest employment site),,, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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