Over the last couple of years, it has come to the world’s attention just how vital a role container ships play in the global economy. They enable millions of tonnes of goods to be imported and exported each year, generating billions in international trade. Here’s a look at some interesting facts about these stalwart workhorses!
Container ships are huge, and they are getting bigger all the time. The world’s largest container ship is currently the Ever Ace, which is 400 metres long, and can carry 23,992 containers. The vessel is owned by the Taiwanese company Evergreen Marine, and they are planning to build a further 12 supersize freight ships.
To put it into perspective, 400 metres is about the length of four football pitches. These vessels are enormous!
These vessels don’t just transport standard shipping containers. They can be adapted to carry even the most difficult cargo, including hazardous chemicals and liquids. They are regularly used for heavy equipment shipping. This can either be done via a roll-on/roll-off method, if the equipment is wheeled, or it can be lifted on and off the vessel via cranes.
In fact, about 95% of the world’s goods are transported via some method of sea freight shipping. It’s still the cheapest and safest way to move products and raw materials around the world.
Once they have served their time at sea, many shipping containers go on to have a second life on land. In fact, repurposed shipping containers have been used to build classrooms, houses, sheds, and even swimming pools.
It is now not uncommon in many areas of the world, including the UK, to find whole retail parks comprised of adapted shipping containers. They are relatively cheap to convert, and provide an excellent way for startup businesses and retailers to occupy a space that would otherwise have been unaffordable for them.
In 1992, a cargo ship accidently spilled 29,000 yellow rubber ducks into the Pacific Ocean during a winter storm. The bath toys have been drifting about the global seas for the past 30 years, sometimes washing up on the shores of Alaska, Australia, Hawaii, and Chile. Now, their progress can be tracked via the Friendly Floatees programme.
The idea came from Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer, who used the lost ducks to track ocean currents. The data is primarily used to help fisheries and study currents, but it is also used to track people lost at sea. Most of the ducks have now faded to white, but a number of green frogs released at the same time have retained their colour.
The first intermodal shipping containers were invented in America in the 1950s, and they revolutionised international trade. They could be transferred between different modes of transport, such as trains, trucks, and ships, without the need to unload and reload the goods. This saved a great deal of time and labour.