How a Box Changed The World

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Shipping containers have revolutionized international trade over the last 60 years. “The Box; How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger” by Marc Levinson is a comprehensive look at how a simple solution changed how the world interacts.

Before shipping containers, transportation of goods was a long, expensive and unpredictable process. The transferring of materials from vehicle to vehicle was a huge strain on the industry. If the deliveries traveled overseas and across land, they likely had to be moved from ship to train to truck. At each step, a team had to be available to physically move these tons of supplies. The process of loading and unloading often times caused delays and required a large cost of labor that prevented the industry from scaling. Not to mention it left opportunities for theft and damage to occur.

In April 1956 came a solution – shipping containers. Large boxes that could carry goods allowed for seamless movement of loads between trucks, trains, and ships. The result was a dramatic decrease in the need for labor and a sharp decrease in transportation costs. Their stackability, in addition, was an added benefit that allowed for an increase in capacity.

The transportation industry was slow to adopt this new technology until during the Vietnam War. The military became an example of success utilizing containers to supply troops in Asia. This convinced the world and sparked growth in the transportation industry. Shipping containers were purposed for domestic and international commercial trade. By 1960 shipping containers were across the world from coast to coast.

The usage of shipping containers directly promoted globalization and international trade. Moving goods became easier, faster, and more reliable. After transforming the transportation industry, innovators are finding new ways to purpose these containers to revolutionize other industries including, retail, housing, and architecture.



“The Box; How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger” by Marc Levinson

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