Sixty years ago, Malcolm McLean had an idea that revolutionized maritime transport and stimulated international trade: the shipping container. Even though seaborne trade dates back decades, McLean’s thought greatly contributed to the growth of the world economy in the 20th century. The American transport tycoon believed it would be much wiser, cost effective and efficient to have a container that could be lifted directly from a truck onto a ship without having to unload its content. His ideas were based on the fact that the efficiency of transport modes could be greatly enhanced by an “intermodal” system meaning that the same container with the same cargo could be transported with minimal interruption via different roads and means of transport during the same journey.
Global containerization has grown steadily over time, substantially boosting shipping activity at the seaports all around the world. In fact, six decades after McLean’s invention, containerisation constituted more than 60% of the maritime trade in terms of value of goods in 2014. In terms of dead-weight tonnage, containers accounted for 12.8% of the world fleet in 2014 increasing from 1.6% in 1980. Thus, figures reflect the fact that the number of container ships has increased steadily over time up until 2013. However, estimates for 2014 show that this figure is stagnating at around 5,000 but that the capacity of ships is growing. It increased from an average of 1,000 TEU/per ship transported in 1987 to more than 3,000 TEU/per ship in 2013.
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Alternatives for Developing Containers’ Activity at the Port of Beirut