Did You Know: Container Facts

Containers, for whatever purpose, have a great impact on our daily lives, yet do you really know much about them?

As shipping containers, they carry a large percentage of the world’s goods that we use on a daily basis, and many people work with them, whether directly or indirectly within business.


Although we understand many people don’t question the value of steel containers on a regular basis, here are a few fun and interesting facts regarding one of the most useful products in the world.

  • Malcolm McLean and Keith Tantlinger developed the first container specification in 1955. The original concept was an 8ft wide by 8ft tall by various 10ft lengths box made of thick corrugated steel at 2mm thickness. The design was considered genius, due to the box’s ability to be easily stacked and lifted, dependent on the design of the external corners. The patent was ‘given’ to the world for free in order to increase adoption, but it took until 1961 for the ISO (International Standards Organisation) to finalise the standards for containers and their use.
  • The world’s largest container ships are around 1300 feet long, with a maximum width of 180 feet. Their engines alone weigh 2300 tons and offer nearly 1000 times more power than the average family car. The propellers weight 130 tons, and there are 21 storeys in-between the bridge and the engine room. They can be operated by teams of just 13 people and a computer system, carrying 15,500 20ft containers. If that number of containers were to be loaded onto a train it would be over 62 miles long.
  • Every container has its own unique unit number, called a box number, that is used by ship captains, crews, dock supervisors, customs officers, coast guards and warehouse managers in order to identify who owns the container and who is using the container in order to ship goods. This number can also help such people track the container to a location anywhere in the world.
  • It is estimated that between 2000 and 10,000 containers a year fall off ships and are lost at sea. This is often dangerous to shipping as they don’t always sink, but float very low under water level. In 1992 a 40ft container full of plastic toys fell in the Pacific Ocean with the toys taking some 10 months to start to drift ashore on the Alaskan coastline.
  • In 2010, it was estimated that there are more than 530 million containers in the world.

As a leading supplier of steel containers in London, we are dedicated to quality and provide a wide range of storage and accommodation units to suit all requirements. For more information, please feel free to contact our friendly team on 020 8459 6972 today!

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