|Until recently, cargo was loaded
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Imagine a business
so steeped in tradition that it used centuries-old labor practices
just 50 years ago. In fact, this was the case with the shipping
industry just after World War II, when cargo handling was as labor-intensive
as it had been in 1848, when APLs predecessor opened its doors
new means of transporting goods had recently been developed. It
was a simple steel box the container and
it would soon revolutionize international trade. Yet, for as many
benefits as it afforded, it also presented unique challenges.
the magnitude of this innovation, its necessary to understand
how goods were transported prior to containerization. Before this
advance, cargo was literally manhandled. Cranes with slings unloaded
crates onto pallets. Longshoremen then muscled the crates into place,
and forklifts moved the pallets to warehouses. Damage and delays
| Even the first containers
operations more efficient.
Like many 20th
century innovations, containers were born out of a sense of urgency.
First used by the U.S. government during the war, they proved the
ideal means of quickly and efficiently unloading and distributing
supplies, which was of paramount importance at the time. Instead
of shipping commodities in bulk, army and navy specialists began
to mix cargo by loading freight onto pallets, then loading the pallets
into specially constructed boxes.
For the private
sector, containers held the promise of secure, dry storage of cargo
and controlled climates and added shelf life for perishables. Yet,
despite favorable reports about the use of containers, the concept
of containerization seemed far-fetched to all but the most forward-thinking
in the early 1950s.
container designed to
For the container
to succeed, ships would have to be modified. Likewise, ports and
inland transportation systems around the world would have to be
upgraded to meet a new standard. Industry leaders, as well as customers,
APLs management was an early proponent of the container for
transporting commodities traditionally shipped in bulk like
lumber and steel. The company soon saw the tremendous potential
for the efficiency afforded by this basic tool of trade. In addition,
APL was a leader in the research and development of controlled temperature
containers. These reefers now make it possible to transport
goods like climate-sensitive film and perishable seafood all over
decades later, the majority of dry cargo moves in containers. And
customers around the world are reaping the benefits of a ground-breaking
advance that started with a concept as simple as a steel box.