Container Bites: Interesting Intermodal Container Stats and Tid Bits

We’ve all seen intermodal containers on the back of trucks, trains, and ships. But do you know how intermodal containers work? How long have they been in use? What is their impact on society?

The intermodal container is one of the most important inventions that has revolutionized global trade. It’s an all-purpose tool for shipping goods across oceans, seas, states and provinces, and the world.

A Quick History of the Shipping Container

The intermodal container, created in 1956 by Malcom McLean, revolutionized the shipping industry. It eliminated the need for goods to be loaded and unloaded, a time-consuming and costly process.

Today’s intermodal containers are made of high-strength steel with locking devices that make it possible to stack two or more units on top of each other and fasten them together securely.

17 Intermodal Container Shipping Facts and Statistics That May Interest You

Intermodal containers are composed of steel and come in twenty-foot equivalent units up to 53′, but what else is interesting about them?

– Approximately 90% of the world’s goods are transported by sea.

– At any one time, there are approximately 20 million shipping containers adrift at sea.

– The amount of goods carried by containers has risen from 102 million metric tons in 1980 to about 1.83 billion metric tons in 2017.

– China is the world’s top container producer, building nearly 97 percent of all shipping containers.

– A container ship can carry up to 11,000 containers. That means lining up; the vessel is transporting about 70 km or 44 miles of shipping containers.

– It is estimated that approximately 600 million shipping containers are in use today.

– The standard twenty-foot equivalent unit container’s nickname is TEU

– An intermodal freight train is up to two times more fuel-efficient than a transportation truck.

– The maximum capacity of a vessel with the name “Globe,” which can carry 19,100 20-foot containers, has a capacity of 300 million tablets or 156 million pairs of shoes.

– Dry freight or general-purpose containers make up 90% of intermodal containers.

– Refrigerated containers make up only 6% of the world’s containers. 

– The first container ship, dubbed the Autocarrier, was launched by the Southern Railway of the United Kingdom in 1931.

– In 2021, the average time it took to unload a container in Asia was 27 seconds, in Northern Europe 46 seconds, and in North America, 76 seconds.

– In March 2021, a 1,300-foot-long vessel got stuck in the Suez Canal, and it cost the world’s economy 400 million dollars per hour for almost a week.

– In 2019, the annual world shipping trade was valued at 13 trillion USD.

– According to Saxon, inefficient container supply chains account for around 20 billion USD of industry waste each year, the result of a lack of data sharing. 

– In October 2021, the spot freight route charges from Shanghai to Rotterdam reached 14.605 USD (a 565 percent increase over the previous year)

The future of the shipping container and transporting cargo

Shipping containers have a bright future in intermodal transportation. With incidents like the EverGreen in the Suez canal and the COVID-19 pandemic, the shipping industry is expected to surge.

Transporting goods has never been more challenging. Many companies are recovering financially due to the collapse in oil prices, and price wars ignite as shipping rates go through the roof.

Industry leaders in maritime container shipping Maersk and Evergreen, are reporting record revenues and forecasts well into the near future. With port bottlenecks and congestion concerns getting worse, business and consumer demand are not going anywhere anytime soon.

For a more in-depth look at intermodal containers read our post about everything you want and need to know about containerization.