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The Origin of the Shipping Container

Although it is commonly thought that the shipping container originated in China, it is actually a product of American ingenuity. The first shipping container was, in fact, invented and patented in 1956 not by a maritime professional but instead, American trucking entrepreneur Malcolm McLean. Around the time of his invention, he owned the fifth largest trucking company in the country.

After hauling cargo in unstandardized wooden crates for decades, McLean decided that there had to be a better way. After acquiring the Pan Atlantic Tanker Company, which gave him access to several old tankers, he began experimenting with improved loading and unloading protocols. Influenced by the tankers’ structure and features, McLean eventually designed the successful prototype we know today as the steel shipping container. Strong, resistant, stackable and offering substantial storage space, his idea attracted the interest and involvement of the US Navy (which advanced the product’s ISO compliance), and an entirely new global industry was launched. 

Shipping containers immediately impacted product transport for the better.  Costs of loading freight was quickly reduced by over 90%, with savings passed along to the consumer. Before long, other uses for the containers were explored, and they are now regularly employed in multiple capacities within a vast spectrum of industries.

At SteelSTORED, we take our inspiration from Malcolm McLean – we find the best solutions to our clients’ storage needs at the most competitive, value-added prices. And, we never, ever accept anything less than top quality and performance. 

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