Today’s global marketplace has been made possible by containerization. The first shipping container was invented and patented in 1956 by an American named Malcolm McLean who started out as a trucker. By 1955 he owned the largest trucking fleet in the South and the fifth largest trucking company in the United States.

In 1955 McLean sold his trucking company and then purchased Pan Atlantic Tanker Company, which he re-named Sea-Land Shipping. With this shipping company he could try out better ways to load and unload trucks and ships. Before containerization, an infinite combination of sizes and shapes of boxes, crates and product were delivered by truck and trailer to a port. These were then loaded either directly or in large cargo nets into the hold, or onto the deck of a ship to be stowed and secure. Consequently it cost about $5.86 a ton to load a ship. McLean’s innovation was to modify the ships and his terminals to handle only two or three standardized sizes of container. Thus all the costs involved in unloading trucks and trains at the ports and then loading and stowing the cargo on board the ships could be eliminated. After McLean’s revolution it only cost about $0.16 a ton to load a ship - a reduction of 97%. Without this revolution today’s global marketplace would not be a reality.

The containers that McLean pioneered are still loaded using technology unchanged for 55 years. Cargo is either manually floor loaded, pushed in on pallet jacks or driven in using forklift trucks. Though today, a modern LO/LO (Load On/Load Off) terminal with gantry cranes can load 20 containers an hour onto a ship, most companies loading product into containers (stuffing a container) can only manage 2 containers per hour. Unloading product from a container (container stripping) generally takes longer.

Starting in 2010 with the commissioning of its first machine CSL finished the revolution that McLean started. Our technology can increase output to 6-8 containers per hour and deliver an equally dramatic reduction in container stuffing costs.

Before containerization, loading cargo in the Port of Seattle in the 1930's
Source: University of Washington Ron Magden Archive
ILWU 23 Collection; reproduced by kind permission
of Ron Magden

Malcolm focused on transforming the way ships are loaded and by pioneering the use of standardized shipping containers, he transformed the cost structure of the shipping industry and so made possible today’s highly integrated global marketplace.

By standardizing the way containers or enclosed trailers are loaded and making possible an output increase of up to 400%, CSL’s technology transforms the cost structure of the container loading and unloading operation.