Sat at a port in 1937, at the age of 24, a young man had an idea


19 years later, that same young man, made that idea a reality and that reality revolutionised the way we live. 

In 1956 on the 26th of April, the converted World War 2 tanker – SS IdealX – left New Jersey on its maiden voyage. This marked the first journey in history where cargo was packed into standardised containers.

Before this day, cargo was loaded onto trucks and shipped piece by piece, this is how Breakbulk cargo started out. The whole loading process could take more than a week and the dock worker’s wages were only around $20 a day.

The young man, Malcom McLean owned a trucking company. He decided to invest in his idea, so he sold everything he owned, bought a ship, then developed the method of Containerisation. He designed corrugated boxes that would fit onto any truck or ship that could then transport them to and from anywhere. This started to connect the manufacturer straight to the consumer. Instead of the cargo being handled by endless different people, this meant no one would then handle the products until the vendor, distributor or consumer received it. Not only had Mclean made the shipping process easier and quicker, it became universal. This one aspect is incredible, as a species, we can’t decide on a universal currency, type of plug or even which side of the road to drive on, but we do agree on the standardised shipping container.

This process could now be done in a matter of hours. Shipping costs plummeted quickly and cities started to be ‘put on the map’ as their ports were perfect for the new, larger ports needed after the shipping boom. This has helped to shape our global economy and trade network. It can now be cheaper to manufacture something on the other side of the world because shipping is so inexpensive.

Shipping from Europe to Australia went from


Down to


From 1993 – 2002 the average shipment of a cargo ship grew by


Some people think this could be the last great innovation in shipping. But, with the digitalization of the industry on the rise and new technologies like Blockchain starting to be used by industry giants, there’s definitely room for another.


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