This Big Idea Is Projected To Reduce Fuel, Energy, And Expenses Around The World

Categories: Tech

It’s just over 50 years since the shipping container took its first trip. Though it has changed little in the subsequent half century, standardised containerisation has dramatically reduced global transportation costs and supercharged international trade. Containerisation remains a beacon of efficiency only because it exists within the obscenely inefficient, environmentally irresponsible and otherwise resistant-to-change shipping industry. Now a new collapsible composite container is being trialled which is ingeniously more efficient, lighter, cheaper, more easily trackable, more accountable in terms of its contents and more environmentally-friendly. Despite a raft of advantages, it might not go into service because ...

Comprehending the magnitude of the merchant shipping industry is a difficult task because it is so large – the world’s 50,000 merchant ships account for roughly 5% of global GDP and more than 90% of the non-bulk cargo carried worldwide arrives at its destination in containers. Which is why it makes infinite sense to streamline and optimise the trade transportation process.

In the last 40 years, the amount of goods carried by merchant ships has quadrupled to 7,700 million tonnes annually, in no small part due to the efficiencies of the standardised shipping container.

Though it took several decades to evolve, the standardised intermodal (boat, train, truck) container system is one of the most important global innovations of the last century and one of the key enablers of the emerging science of logistics over the last few decades.


Despite making the world a smaller place and the world economy much bigger, the shipping container as it exists today is still far from perfect and the latest proposal for a new shipping container, the CargoShell, offers significant benefits by comparison.

The simple iron box conceived sixty years ago was born into a different world –material science was in its infancy, satellite tracking didn’t exist, the world had oil to burn, carbon footprints were left by children on carpets and raising environmental concerns would most likely have attracted McCarthyist attention.

Since then, we’ve learned a lot about global trade and how it operates in this new era, where containers make more than 200 million trips each year.

The concept of a collapsible container

The concept of a collapsible shipping container now makes particular sense because a large proportion of the containers being shipped into exporting countries each year are empty - 26% of all containers shipped globally each year originate from China for instance, so most of them are returned empty at only slightly less transporting cost than their original journey when full.

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