THERE WERE TWO LETTERS in the June 2012 issue of Sea Breezes concerning the concept and development of unitising cargoes, ie containerisation.
No doubt the first furniture van or delivery vans got transport owners thinking about how to maximise the security and reduce the costs of transporting goods on land and on sea.
The General Steam Navigation Company did trial wooden containers on some Continental routes. These wooden containers were made in Deptford in the early 1950’s. It was in 1958 that a conglomerate Great Yarmouth Shipping Company, of which GSN was a part, commenced a container service between Felixstowe and Rotterdam. However, Continental Line using Bardic Ferry and Ionic Ferry soon had a truck Ro-Ro service between Tilbury and Antwerp, and Preston to Larne. The Railway company, using railway containers, built the world’s first cellular container ships Container Venturer and Container Enterprise.
GSN were still sticking to largely a-traditional fleet of general cargo vessels. It was not until 1962/1963 that GSN got together with a consortium of British, Dutch, and German shipping interests to offer a full Ro-Ro freight and passenger service between Hull and Europort. Now who is the real man behind the container?
I would offer a former one truck man, who went on to own the largest trucking company in the USA. He was Malcolm McLean. He went on to found SEA-Land Corporation and developed the steel container. In 1956, he was operating ss Fairland as a fully fledged containership and was soon operating the biggest and fastest containerships in the world. In 1999, they amalgamated with Maersk to form Sealand Maersk. McLean, in the early days, noted that it cost $5.50 a ton to handle and load break bulk cargo. Containers reduced that cost to 16 cent a ton.
1 Cathedral Walk, Cloyne, Co Cork, Ireland