The Container Revolution: 50 years of Industry Change

by Contributor Jaime-Tetrault on ‎04-27-2010 02:06 AM

After a frustrating experience in 1937 having to wait an entire day for his truckload of cotton to be loaded onto a boat bound for Istanbul, a seed was planted for Malcolm McLean – a seed that became the modern marine container that is ubiquitous today! McLean is today credited with implementing the standard container in 1956, which could be lifted up and placed on a ship from a truck – saving time and money.


In the decades since, the shipping industry has encountered periods of change as shipping continued to expand and the relative distance between countries continued to shrink.  However, one thing has stayed the same – formal sizes of containers, which were established by the International Standards Committee in 1961: the twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU = 20' length x 8' width x 8.5' height) and the forty-foot equivalent unit (FEU = 40' x 8' x 8.5').  TEU and FEU are often considered the defining capacity unit for all container ships today instead of Dead Weight Tonnage (DWT).


The current generation of containerships has pushed the limits of ship design and harbor capabilities. Similar to the super-tankers of the 1970s, containerships are now exceeding original expectations. Containerization and intermodalism have radically altered the movement of cargo. Today's merchant fleet worldwide consists of 3,375 containerships with a capacity of 7.2 million TEUs. Caterpillar is currently supplying engines to Maersk Lines vessels being built today that are capable of carrying up to 10,000 TEUs.


Their impact on the world's trade is significant. In 1983 the total US foreign ocean-borne commerce was 694.4 million metric tons; ten years later, this had increased to 884.4. Ten years after that, it had magnified to 1,167.9 million metric tons, nearly doubling in just twenty years. Growth of this magnitude is only possible through the use of containers.


"Containerization has allowed businesses around the world to link up in a smooth, very efficient way of transporting goods,” said Chris Koch, president of the World Shipping Council, a Washington trade association representing container ship operators. "Before McLean, the cost of transportation would be prohibitive for many commodities."  Without McLean’s innovative transportation ideas, we would never be able to grow the shipping industry.


So as the global economy rebounds, I wonder what the next trend in the shipping industry will be.  Of course, Caterpillar Marine Power Systems is there for propulsion and auxiliary power as ships get larger and larger.  However, I wonder where the next momentous idea will come from – could it be you?  What trends are you seeing in your part of the world?  Who knows – you could be the next Malcolm McLean, quietly revolutionizing the world around you!  Please post your feedback below.

About the Author
  • I joined Caterpillar in 2001 in the Extended Service Coverage (extended warranty) department of Cat Insurance (division of Cat Financial). I have always loved the water, ships, boats and the challenges of this industry and moved to Caterpillar Marine Power Systems (CMPS) in 2007. I was fortunate to be able to work at CMPS Headquarters in Hamburg, Germany for 2 years and now reside at our Marine Center of Excellence in South Carolina, USA. As the Marine Parts Manager for Cat Marine Parts I am able to work cross functionally with our regional product support teams, our extensive dealer network, customers and bring this knowledge and customer expectations to Caterpillar's incredible resources to design new and innovative product support solutions to meet our customer expectations. This gives me great pride and enjoyment to meet and exceed your expectations and promote the Cat Marine Brand.
  • In 2005, I started my career at Caterpillar as an intern in Kiel, after that I worked as a student and then a temporary employee. I finally became a permanent employee in 2008, working at the Marine World headquarters in Hamburg. Through all these years I was supporting and leading Marketing projects from various areas, including Electronic Sales Tools, Shows, Novelties etc. By May 01, 2011 my job role changed to the current one. In this position I am leading several Electronic Marketing projects such as all Marine and Oil & Gas Social Media activities.
  • After around 10 years of good time in mineral & metal industry, the destiny has guided me through BMW, ThyssenKrupp to the Caterpillar station. At the moment I'm serving as a Six Sigma Strategy Black Belt in Caterpillar Marine Power System.
  • I joined the Caterpillar Team 2007 and worked in several positions most likely in Product Support. 2008 I passed the 6 Sigma Black Belt Training and has leaded various sales and process related projects. After the certification as a 6 Sigma Black Belt I joined the CMPS Product Support Team as a Global Marketing Representative.
  • A maritime academy graduate and a 17 year employee of Caterpillar with 25 years of marine experience, currently managing the Caterpillar Marine Power System Product Support Division representing all product health, product support, parts sales and distribution development activities for Cat and MaK brand marine engines.
  • Originally from Spain, I moved to Hamburg, Germany, in 2010 to write my Master’s Thesis in Industrial Engineering. Upon its completion, I had the opportunity to join Caterpillar Marine Power Systems as an intern at their headquarters. During this period, I supported, in various capacities, sales into the Cargo and European Inland Waterways markets, as well as Offshore Wind opportunities. I am currently working as a Junior Territory Sales Manager in the Europe, Africa, Middle East and CIS Sales Team.
  • Born in Brazil, Luiz joined the Caterpillar engine team in 1998 and has worked in different positions covering marine service, product application and sales. Currently he is a Black Belt under the Caterpillar Marine group.
  • A veteran of 12.5 years Naval service, in the U.S. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. 3.5 years as a Marine Application and Installation Engineer at a CAT dealership. I have been working for Caterpillar Marine Power Systems since 2008. My time at Caterpillar has been spent helping to develop global emissions solutions for 3500 marine engines.
  • I am the Asia Pacific contact for marine parts marketing. With marine customers being the most mobile group, with operations spanning the entire globe, there are always new challenges and learning opportunties to engage in. Life in marine is never boring!
  • I have been involved in sales and marketing of Caterpillar marine products for almost 45 years including 10 years in the U.K. where I worked on North Sea oil and gas projects. For the past 35 years I have various roles within the marine business of Toromont Cat where I have assembled a portfolio of Caterpillar and MaK powered new construction and repower projects including ferries, Great Lakes bulk-carriers and self-unloaders, Coast Guard vessels and pleasure craft. I admit that my knowledge has come from a hands-on approach to engine sales by wearing coveralls and a hard hat rather than a business suit. I am based in Toronto and am an active member of the C.I.Mar. E. Great Lakes Branch and participate in SNAME Great Lakes/Great Rivers meetings in the U.S.
  • I ensure that our Cat global dealer network has the tools required to support our Propulsion Solutions products including our Cat Three60 Precision Control.
  • I have been at Caterpillar for nearly 31 years. All this time has been related to Diesel engines, with the first 23 years in Fuel Systems, the next 3 in the Engine Center, and the last 4 here in Hamburg, Germany, as the Worldwide Demand Manager for Marine and Petroleum MaK engines. In this role, I touch many areas, from concept to delivery, from shipyard to factory. I work with Dealers, Sales Managers, Customers, Accountants, and Order Processors, all the way to the factory floor. Those who know me know that I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  • I am a Mechanical Engineer with 17 years of experience with Caterpillar Engine Products, currently working at Caterpillar Marine Power Systems Headquarters in Hamburg, Germany. I am responsible for product support and Dealer development, and support dealers in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.
  • I am a 33 year employee of Caterpillar and have focused on engines my entire career. For the last 18 years I have worked in the Marine group in various capacities. Since 2004 I have been the Global Marketing Manager for the Pleasure Craft segment, managing all trade shows, advertising, events, and NPI (New Product Introduction) launches.

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