Containing Modern Life

Containers are 20- and 40-foot-long steel boxes that can be carried on ships, trains, and trucks. Standardized containers were introduced in the 1950s, and shippers recognized their value for moving manufactured goods and some bulk cargoes. The container that leaves a factory in Asia filled with consumer goods is the same one that delivers those goods to distribution centers all around the United States. The container system, which eliminates multiple cargo handling costs, is one of the factors behind the global expansion of manufacturing centers to places where labor costs are low.

Container ship Emma Mærsk

Length: 1,302 ft

Breadth: 183 ft

Builder: Odense Steel Shipyard, Odense, Denmark

Crew size: 13

Container ship Emma Maersk

At launching in 2006, Emma Maersk was the world’s largest container ship. It can carry 11,000 twenty-foot containers, or the equivalent of a double-stack train that stretches for 22 miles. To help protect the environment, the ship’s fuel tanks sit in the center of its double hull and a waste-heat recovery system reduces fuel consumption and emissions. With automated monitoring systems, a crew of only 13 operates the vessel.

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Container Ships

This video takes viewers behind the scenes aboard modern commercial vessels. See what life and work is like aboard container ships.

Produced by the History Channel