Who Invented the First Shipping Container ?

The first shipping container was invented and patented in 1956 by an American named Malcolm Mc Lean, an American entrepreneur often called “the father of containerization”.

Mc Lean was not a shipper, but was a trucker who 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, Mc Lean realized it would be much simpler and quicker to have one container that could be lifted from a vehicle directly on to a ship without first having to unload its contents. Malcolm then purchased Pan Atlantic Tanker Company, which owned a bunch of fairly rusted tankers and 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. He refitted the ships and designed trailers to stack below or on the decks. In April 1956, his first container ship, the Ideal X, departed Port Newark, New Jersey, headed for Houston.

Because is was so much faster and organized to load/unload, the cost of loading freight was reduced by more than 90%. McLean revolutionized the centuries-old shipping industry by developing the first safe, reliable, and cost-effective approach to transporting containerized cargo.  The metal shipping container developed by him, replaced the traditional break bulk method of handling dry goods. He later founded Sea-Land Service, Inc., one of the pioneers in the intermodal cargo transport business. McLean was named “Man of the Century” by the International Maritime Hall of Fame.

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The Truck Driver Who Re-invented Shipping

Wikipedia: Malcolm McLean

PBS: Who Made America? Containerized Shipping

Twentieth Century Leaders Database