Tuesday, April 26 marked the 60th anniversary of containerization.
In 1956, trucking magnate, Malcolm McLean, frustrated over the inefficiencies of unloading trucks by hand and reloading cargo onto ships, acquired a World War II era tank ship, which was renamed the Ideal X. A metal platform was installed above the tank tops and piping so that the trailers, soon to be known as shipping containers, could be loaded onto the deck.
At Berth 24 in Port Newark, McLean loaded 58 trailers on the deck of the Ideal X, which sailed several hours later on its maiden voyage to Houston, TX. Containerization had been born.
By using shipping containers, McLean had increased both the speed and efficiency of shipping and reduced losses due to breakage and theft. His company, Sea-Land, is recognized as the first container shipping company. Other shipping firms observed these developments and quickly followed suit.
To date, the largest ship handled in the Port of New York and New Jersey is capable of carrying 10,062 TEUs. When the Bayonne Bridge Navigational Clearance Project is completed, as many as 18,000 TEUs per vessel will be possible.
As part of the anniversary, Port Commerce staff met with Ken Johns, a protégé of McLean, who was also Sea-Land’s first management trainee. Mr. Johns went on to become President of Sea-Land.
Mr. Johns said that the concept of containerization “shrunk the globe and opened the door to trading as we know it today.” He added: “Malcolm McLean did for shipping what Steve Jobs has done for technology.”