Interesting Facts


The inventor of the shipping container was Malcolm McLean (1913-2001). In 1956 he created the metal shipping container to replace the old style “break bulk” method of goods handling. Later on, he founded Sea-Land Service. McLean added many transpacific routes and in 1967 the US government asked him to start a container service to South Vietnam, which became 40% of the company’s turnover in 1968-69.


There are currently over 17 million shipping containers in the world, and five or six million of them are currently shipping around the world on vessels, trucks, and trains. In total, they make around 200 million trips a year.


It’s estimated that there are 10,000 shipping containers lost at sea every year. That’s almost one container every hour! Lost containers can be damaged by waves and sink quickly, but some may float for a little while. The ones that don’t sink, often float just below the surface which can cause a lot of damage to other vessels.


Approximately 97% of all shipping containers are manufactured in China. This is due to the fact the Chinese labour rate is lower than many other countries and that much of the world’s products are produced in China. It is far easier to produce the container close to the shipment is, than to re- position containers around the world.


Shanghai, China was the busiest container port in the world in 2012. 32.5 million containers passed through the port. The Port of Felixstowe handled just under 4 million twenty foot equivalent containers during 2012. Felixstowe is the largest port in the UK and handles 42% of the UK’s container traffic.


To Date The ‘Prelude’ is the recorded the largest cargo ship in the world. This was recorded on 5th December 2013. The ‘Prelude’ is owned by Shell and is a length of 1601ft, which is 150ft longer than the Empire State building high.


All commercially used shipping containers have a serial number which made up of a 4 letter prefix (nearly always ending a U and a seven digit number [XXX-U-123456-1]. The first three letters signify the owner, the next letter is the category of the container (U = freight container), followed by a six digit serial number and finally a check digit. There is a mathematical formula that works out the check digit (final number).


Shipping containers can last over 20 years! Provided they are taken care of with regular paint and maintenance.


A standard 20′ shipping container can hold 1,170 cubic feet and the max gross weight is 30T with a tare weight of 2.2T. A 40′ high cube contains 2,700 cubic feet and the max gross weight is 32.5T with a tare weight of 3.8T.


95% of the world’s cargo moves by ship. It still makes financial sense to transport goods in high volume via sea/ocean.