Shipping Containers have many names, which can be a bit confusing. However shipping containers are standard shapes, sizes and construction virtually everywhere in the world. When an ISO shipping container is used solely for shipping it can have four main names.

  • Shipping Container
  • ISO Container
  • Cargo Container
  • Conex Box

When an ISO Shipping Container is used soley for building construction or storage it is then called an ISBU module, or

  • ISBU
  • Intermodal Steel Building Unit
  • GreenCube

What Is An ISBU is from the name Inter-modal Steel Building Unit. Since 2006 the Shipping Containers have become very popular and trendy for use as home, storage, prefab, and business construction purposes.

Since 1954 the principle use for Shipping Containers is for International ocean shipping, truck, or train freight, and occasional secure storage. Only recently has the world begun to realize their value in housing, office construction, storage and emergency shelters. The possibilities are virtually endless.

Sizes- The common shipping containers are 20′ and 40′ dry containers and the shipping industry refers to all containers and statistics as TEW, meaning twenty foot containers. A 40′ shipping container would be referred to as 2 TEW for your easy calculating. Other sizes of containers are certainly available such as 8′, 10′ and 53′. These sizes are specially made but are a minority.

The common types of ISO shipping containers are:

  • 20′ GP
  • 40′ GP
  • 20′ HQ (meaning High Cube. The difference is 1 foot taller than a standard 20′ GP)
  • 40′ HQ (meaning High Cube. The difference is 1 foot taller than a standard 40′ GP)
  • Open top
  • Open side
  • Freezer, or Refrigerated are also available, but are not recommended for ISBU construction.

History of Shipping Containers:

Many people think the Shipping Container was invented in China — not true. The first shipping container was invented and patented in 1956 by an American named Malcolm Mc Lean.

Mc Lean was not an ocean shipper, but was a trucker and by 1956 he owned the largest trucking fleet in the South and the fifth largest trucking company in all the United States. He saved his money and bought his first truck in 1934. During those years all cargo was loaded and unloaded in odd sized wooden crates. The process was very slow and certainly not standardized.

After observing this slow and inefficient process for 20 years, he finally decided to step back and develop some standardized way of loading cargo from trucks to ships and warehouses.

Malcolm then purchased Pan Atlantic Tanker Company, which owned a bunch of fairly rusted tankers. He re-named the new shipping company Sea-Land Shipping. With this shipping company he could finally experiment with better ways to load and un-load trucks and ships. After many experiments, his final design is what we know now as the Shipping Container. Super Strong, uniform design, theft resistant, stackable, easy to load, unload, truck, rail, ship, and certainly store.

Matson, on the West coast of the US also attempted the container concept, but failed sorely. The final boost to standardize Mc Lean’s concept was the US Navy and by the early 70′s were globally accepted.

So in fact, although Mc Lean had the first concept and working system in 1956, it was the US military who finally did what was necessary to make the ISO shipping container accepted by every shipping line and every country of the world.

Because it was so much faster and organized to load-unload, the cost of loading freight was reduced by more than 90%. Thus, the cost of products you sell or buy were reduced greatly because of the invention and standardization of the ISO shipping container.

In 1956, loose cargo cost $5.86 per ton to load. Using an ISO shipping container, the cost was reduced to only .16 cents per ton.

The shipping container invention of Malcolm Mc Lean has certainly changed the world and thus, it has changed the lives of every human on the planet.

There were many who had similar concepts previously but McLean was simply the guy who really made the “standardized container” concept work globally.

A few of his awards and recognition:

  • In 2000 he was awarded “Man Of The Century” by the International Maritime Hall of Fame, and an honorary Degree by the Merchant Marine Academy.
  • Honored by Fortune Magazine and American Heritage Magazine.
  • Awarded Patent 2,853,968 by the US Patent office in 1958 which was recognized globally.

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