Container Facts

Did you know …

Container Facts

Shipping and Storage Containers

A great idea for the world with many uses

  • Malcolm McLean and Keith Tantlinger developed the first container specification in 1955.  It was an 8ft wide by 8ft tall by various 10ft lengths box made of 2mm thick corrugated steel.  The ‘genius’ was in the design of the external corners that made for easy stacking and lifting (using a standardised twist-lock mechanism).  The patent was ‘given’ to the world for free in order to increase adoption, but it took until 1961 for the International Standards Organisation (ISO) to finalise global standards for containers.

  • It is estimated that between 2,000 & 10,000 containers a year fall off ships and are lost at sea.  This can be dangerous to shipping as they don’t always sink, but float very low in the water.  In 1992 a 40ft container full of plastic toys (frogs, ducks etc.) fell into the pacific ocean with the toys taking some 10 months to start to drift ashore on the Alaskan coastline. (source: CS Shipping Containers).

  • The world’s biggest container ships are about 1,300 feet long with a maximum width of 180 feet (55 meters).  Their engines weigh 2,300 tons and has about 1,000 more power than an average family car. Their propellers weigh 130 tons, and there are twenty-one storeys between their bridge and their engine room. They can be operated by teams of just thirteen people and a sophisticated computer system and carry an astonishing 15,500 20-foot containers.  If that number of containers were loaded onto a train it would need to be 62 miles or 99 kilometres long. (source: World Shipping Council)

  • Every container has its own unique unit number, often called a box number that can be used by ship captains, crews, coastguards, dock supervisors, customs officers and warehouse managers to identify who owns the container, who is using the container to ship goods and even track the container’s whereabouts anywhere in the world. (source: World Shipping Council)

A GVCT 20′ Full Side Access Container

  •  Cargo transported in containers by the liner shipping industry represents about one-third of the value of total global trade, equating to more than US$ 4.6 trillion worth of goods. (source: World Shipping Council)


  • In mid-2008, there were more than 17.8 million containers in the world liner shipping fleet, which cost the industry US$ 80.1 billion to purchase. (source: World Shipping Council)


  • The liner shipping industry has spent over US$ 236 billion in more than a dozen countries on the purchase of new vessels. (source: World Shipping Council)


  • The world’s top shipping lines’ global fleet has a capacity of 13,516,566 TEU’s (Twenty Foot Equivelant Units) with the largest being AP Moller-Maersk who have an 18% market share with 540 vessels (source: various)


  • Today, approximately 90% of non-bulk cargo worldwide moves by containers stacked on transport ships with 26% of all container transhipment happening in China. Some 18 million total containers make over 200 million trips per year. (source: various)


  • It is estimated that there were more than 530 million containers in the world in 2010. (source: various)