Nothing 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]
3 thoughts on “The secret life of shipping containers”
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.
I saw what seemed to be families living in them on the outskirts of Singapore. I think they were Malaysian guest workers.
The container-as-housing is far from unique to Singapore, sadly, Tom. That said, far better a container than nothing.
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