The secret life of shipping containers

Paul Raven @ 09-09-2008

shipping containers at VancouverNothing represents the ubiquity of global trade better than the humble metal shipping container, the industrial-scale use of which celebrates its fiftieth birthday this year.

The BBC, in one of their more adventurous and off-beat moments, have decided to crack the locks on containerised shipping with a year-long investigative project, prosaically entitled “The Box”. Basically, they’ve painted the BBC logo on a shipping container, fitted it with GPS, and set up an online map where you can follow its progress around the world over land and sea.

It’s not just a hollow gesture either – the container will actually be used for carrying real cargoes, so we’ll get to watch world trade in action. That said, it might be a bit more exciting to watch in high speed once the project is over…

All I want to know now is which bright spark at the Beeb has been reading Spook Country? [hat-tip to Asgrim; image by sporkist]

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3 Responses to “The secret life of shipping containers”

  1. Robert Koslover says:

    Heh! Shipping containers can often be placed into holds and (perhaps more importantly) underneath multiple other metallic shipping containers. They are neatly, but closely packed. So their on-container GPS may not always work under those semi-shielded conditions! But based on cargo manifests, modern port systems using barcodes and container-mounted RFIDs, and rather easy-to-track ship locations, they shouldn’t have much of a problem keeping up with their container even if their GPS system doesn’t help much.

  2. Tom Marcinko says:

    I saw what seemed to be families living in them on the outskirts of Singapore. I think they were Malaysian guest workers.

  3. Paul Raven says:

    The container-as-housing is far from unique to Singapore, sadly, Tom. That said, far better a container than nothing.