Shipping container 1

Shipping containers play an important role in our lives, yet due to the fact they spend most of their time at sea or in transit, we rarely think about them. The world runs on trade, and the shipping container is the chief means of providing that trade, so perhaps we should consider the role they play in our increasingly complex economy. The next time you see a storage container in NYC, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Made in China

We know China makes a lot of things, but did you know they make practically 97 percent of all shipping containers? It doesn't hurt that so many of the world's manufactured goods also come from China.

Invented in 1956

A gentleman named Malcolm McLean invented the first metal container in 1956 as a replacement for the traditional break bulk cargo handling.

There Are a Lot of Them

It's estimated that there are over 17 million active shipping containers around the world making a total of 200 million trips a year. That should give you some idea of the massive scale that is modern world trade.

There Are a Lot of Ships

The cost of new liner construction to handle all those containers is over $236 billion US spread out over a dozen countries.

Shipping container 2

They're Not Just Used for Shipping

Shipping containers are incredibly versatile. Including the ones used for shipping, there were an estimated 500 million containers globally in 2010. They're frequently used in the construction of homes and offices, and are even available as storage container rentals in NYC.

They Don't Always Make It

While losing a shipping container is a rare event, around 675 shipping containers are lost at sea annually.

The Port of Shanghai

The busiest port in the world, the Port of Shanghai handles over 33 million containers a year. For comparison, the Port of New York and New Jersey—one of the world's busiest—handles just over 3 million.

Container Size

A standard TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit) container can hold 3,500 shoe boxes, while a 40-ft high cube can hold at least 8,000 shoe boxes.

A Long Lifespan

Shipping containers don't require much upkeep, but with just regular maintenance, a typical shipping container can last over 20 years.

The Cheapest Way to Move Goods

Over 95 percent of all the cargo in the world moves by ship, and nearly all of that within shipping containers. Given the high cost of transportation, the tremendous speed and efficiency of shipping can't be replicated anywhere else.

The shipping container is ubiquitous. From its function in shipping to its increased use as a building material, the shipping container is one of the most recognizable aspects of modern life.