ISO Containers


What are ISO Containers?

Containerisation is these days considered the standard system of intermodal freight transport using standard containers as prescribed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), or what is termed ISO containers. These can be loaded and sealed intact onto container ships, railroad cars, cargo planes, and semi-trailer trucks.

The introduction of ISO containers resulted in huge improvements in port handling efficiency. This lowered costs and helped lower freight charges and, in turn, boosted trade flows. Most goods can now be shipped by any ISO container.

ISO Containers in todays world.

Today, approximately 90% of non-bulk cargo worldwide moves by ISO containers stacked on transport ships and 26% of all containers originate from China. Not surprising as China is now the worlds largest exporter. As of 2005, some 18 million total containers make over 200 million trips per year. There are ships that can carry over 14,500 Twenty-foot equivalent units for example the Emma Mærsk, 396 m long, launched in August 2006. It has even been predicted that, at some point, container ships will be constrained in size only by the depth of the Straits of Malacca—one of the world's busiest shipping lanes—linking the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

Initially though people were slow to realise the extent and influence that ISO containerisation would bring to world shipping and generally to the word economy.  In the 1950s, Harvard University economist Benjamin Chinitz predicted that containerization would benefit New York by allowing it to ship industrial goods produced there more cheaply to the Southern United States than other areas, but did not anticipate that containerization might make it cheaper to import such goods from abroad. Most economic studies of containerization merely assumed that shipping companies would begin to replace older forms of transportation with containerization, but did not predict that the process of containerization itself would have some influence on producers and the extent of trading.

The widespread use of ISO standard containers has driven modifications in other freight-moving standards including changing completely the worldwide use of freight pallets that fit into ISO containers or into commercial vehicles.

Improved security for ISO containers

Improved cargo security has also now become a major and much improved factor in containerisation. Cargo is not visible to the casual viewer and thus is less likely to be stolen and the doors of the containers are generally sealed so that tampering is more evident. This has reduced the "falling off the truck" syndrome that has plagued the shipping industry.


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