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Container's Idea: Malcolm McLean

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." –Chinese Proverb

Who is Malcolm McLean?

Born in North Carolina in 1921, Malcolm McLean started his business life as a truck driver at a young age. threw. It became an important actor in the transportation business by establishing its own truck fleet in the early 1950s. But Malcolm McLean's real vision was to revolutionize freight transport processes.

The Birth of the Container Ship

Malcolm McLean explains how long it takes to transfer cargo from trucks to ships and how much it costs in the process. He realized that it was occurring. Malcolm Mclean thought that standardizing loads in containers would greatly speed up this process and reduce costs.

Malcolm McLean's goals with container standardization

  • Fewer workers needed in transportation operations,

  • -- A large number of goods of different sizes are lost in the hands of untrained workers who cannot even solve simple mathematical problems or take a long time to handle [The Box, p124],

  • -- While 1 ton of cargo was handled with 1.9 man/hour in 1950, this figure increased to 2.5 man/hour in 1956. Any further increase in the number would increase the cost significantly [The Box, p38],

  • With less visible goods and fewer people, thefts will decrease significantly.

  • Machine-based work will reduce loading and unloading operations,

  • In this way, transit times will be accelerated,

  • This acceleration will also reduce port costs,

  • This acceleration would also reduce the stock on the road,

  • Increasing speed and decreasing costs enable the development of global trade,

  • etc.

On April 26, 1956, Ideal X from New Jersey to Houston, Texas It started its first voyage with 58 containers towards . This voyage marked the first official voyage of container shipping and revolutionized supply chain management and global trade.

This innovative approach of McLean started the process of standardizing container transportation worldwide. Today, millions of containers are loaded and unloaded in ports around the world, contributing greatly to global trade.

Contributions of containerization to the US Army during the Vietnam War

McLean goes to great lengths to persuade the army to agree to containerization during the Vietnam war. And as a result of these efforts, an awakening begins in the US Army on this issue. Because at that time, almost all the needs of 540,000 soldiers, especially their food needs, had to be met from outside.

During the Vietnam War, the US Army used specially designed container ships operated by Sea-Land transported large amounts of materials to Saigon Port. This demonstrated how effective containerization can be in terms of efficiency, flexibility and speed in military operations and further emphasized the importance of container transportation.

Malcolm McLean's Difficulties

McLean's innovative approach encountered many obstacles. First of all, ports and ships had to adapt to this new system. The industry, which had adopted traditional shipping methods, did not accept this change easily. However, McLean overcame these difficulties by fighting almost alone with his stubbornness, determination and visionary approach.

Later, he had a lot of problems with the standardization of container sizes. At first, different states used different sizes. However, he overcame this and made significant contributions to the formation of today's ISO 668 standard.


During this process, the main problem they experienced was the strikes at the ports. In labor-intensive port enterprises, the power of workers, and therefore of unions, was at unbreakable levels. Containerization meant needing significantly fewer people.

This change caused great concern among dock workers. Seeing that their jobs would be lost, dock workers resorted to strikes and protests through their unions. Particularly in the United States, there were major strikes at East and Gulf Coast ports in the early 1970s. Strikes lasted up to 95 days. Although these strikes have the potential to slow down the development of container transportation, this method of transportation has become inevitable due to the efficiency advantages brought by containerization.

During this period, unions fought hard to protect workers' rights and job security. Temporary protections and compensations were provided for dock workers, but still, in the long run, the impact of container shipping resulted in a drastic reduction in the number of workers working in ports.

Main obstacles to ports

  • Draft / Water Depth:Container ships need deeper waters due to their weight. This required the ports to be revised accordingly.

  • Security: The fact that the inside of the containers are not visible and the large amount of unseen goods are transported initially raised questions about security for the state authorities. But this point was also one of the advantages against theft in container transportation.

  • Lack of Infrastructure: Traditional ports are designed for cargo that is generally loaded and unloaded manually. Special cranes, forklifts and other equipment are needed to load and unload containers quickly and efficiently.

  • Insufficient Storage Space: Containerization requires large amounts of storage space in ports. Many of the old ports did not have enough space to meet this new need.

  • Transportation Links:Containers had to be easily transported from ports to inland areas. This is possible with rail or road connections. Some older ports did not have the infrastructure to support such connections.

  • Operational Adaptation:Containerization has also brought changes in port operations. This required a review of business processes, information systems and logistics operations.

  • Cost Issues: The transition to container infrastructure brought about significant costs. Some ports had difficulty covering these costs. When they were late in meeting their financial needs, they lost opportunities to other ports.

  • Resistance and Cultural Factors: Resistance to containerization occurred by dock workers, unions, and sometimes local governments. This was particularly due to the possible negative effects of containerization on employment in ports.

  • Physical Constraints: The physical location of some ports would not allow for expansion or modernization. For example, expansion options for ports close to the city center have been limited.

Some ports losing their former powers

As a natural consequence of the widespread use of containerization, ports and port cities have also transformed. Some traditional ports have struggled to adapt to container shipping and lost their former importance, resulting in the rise of new, more modern ports.

At the same time, as the importance of containerization increased, it was seen that cities competed with each other through ports.

It was one of the busiest ports in America before containerization. However, with containerization, it was directed to ports in New Jersey that can accommodate large container ships that need deeper waters (draft) and larger areas.

It was one of the most important ports on the West Coast before containerization. However, Oakland Port replaced San Francisco as it had a more suitable infrastructure for container transportation.< /p>

This historical port on the River Thames has lost its former importance due to the impact of containerization. Felixstowe and Southampton stood out in container transportation.

19. Liverpool, one of England's busiest ports in the 19th century, lost its importance due to containerization towards the end of the 20th century. Other ports with more suitable infrastructure for container transportation have moved ahead of Liverpool.

Genova, which was one of the important ports of the Mediterranean before containerization, became Marseille (France) and Valencia (Spain)

Kolkata, one of India's oldest ports, lost its former importance after containerization. Mumbai and Chennai ports have become the leading ports of the country.

Buenos Aires, one of South America's most important ports, has faced some challenges with the rise of containerization. In particular, the shallowness of the Rio de la Plata River (draft problem) means that large container ships It made it difficult to enter the port.

The historical port of Manila, the capital of the Philippines, with the rise of container shipping, Batangas and < had difficulty competing against other ports such as a href="" target="_blank">Subic

Mombasa, the main port of East Africa, has had difficulty updating its infrastructure due to containerization. This has brought ports such as Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) to the fore.

Companies founded by Malcolm Mclean during this period

  • McLean Trucking Company:McLean was founded in 1934 in North America. He founded a trucking company under his own name in Carolina. This company was his first venture in the logistics industry and has grown over time to become one of the largest trucking companies in America.

  • Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corporation: In 1955, McLean acquired the Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corporation. He used this company to take the first steps in container transportation.

  • Sea-Land Service, Inc.: Pan-Atlantic As the company took a leading role in container shipping, the company was incorporated into Sea-Land Service, Inc. in 1960. Renamed as. Sea-Land has been a key player in the globalization of container shipping and has pioneered many innovative practices.

  • United States Lines: In 1978, McLean acquired United States Lines and used the company to expand global container shipping. However, by the mid-1980s, the company faced economic difficulties and went bankrupt in 1986.

These companies show Malcolm McLean's persistence in logistics and maritime transportation.

Malcolm Mclean's Farewell...

Malcolm McLean, who completely changed international trade, is known as the father of container shipping. When McLean died on May 25, 2001, ships in many ports around the world sounded their sirens to commemorate and respect his contributions. This unique moment was a symbolic gesture that reflected the magnitude and importance of McLean's contributions to the maritime industry.

This meaningful move showed the maritime community's respect for Malcolm McLean and his contributions to the industry. Malcolm McLean, the father of container shipping, brought the world closer together by making global trade more efficient, faster and cost-effective.

Malcolm McLean's amazing life story, Marc Levinson's The Box.< /p>

In summary...

Malcolm McLean's contributions deeply affected not only the shipping industry but also global trade. The container ship has shaped the modern supply chain and globalization, enabling billions of dollars of trade and thousands of jobs.

With deepest respect to the memory of Malcolm McLean...


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