The Box that changed the World – Part 2

A New Era: Intermodal transport

Continued from blog post ‘Part 1 The Box that changed the World…’

McLean’s early container design

Feeling his early container designs could be improved Malcolm McLean, set out to create a standardised shipping ‘trailer’ or container, he purchased shipping company, Pan-Atlantic, who already had docking rights in many of the eastern port cities and renamed it ‘SeaLand Industries’. 

Sealand Industries

He tested variations of the trailer and settled on a primitive form of what we know today as the shipping container. It was strong, stackable, easy to load/unload and lockable. McLean  then bought the oil tanker, Ideal X, and modified it to hold 58 of his newly designed containers. It was a huge success. He was able to offer a discounted price of conventional cargo transportation, and the containers being lockable – prevented goods being stolen.


In 1957 his ship incredibly only required two groups of dockworkers to unload and load the cargo. The cargo could be moved at a staggering 30 tons per hour, unheard of at the time. However, there was still the issue of a lack of standardisation with regards to the container’s size and corner fittings. Standardisation was needed so containers could be stacked effectively.

During the 60’s and the Vietnm war, McLean continued improving his container designs and filing more patents, including his patent of the revolutionary shipping container corner posts (vital to strength and stacking) and several standards were agreed. He engaged an engineer, Keith Tantlinger to help him. In a genius maneuver, he then gave the patent designs royalty free to the Industrial Organization for Standardization (ISO). This helped catapult his designs to the industry standard.

By 1969, SeaLand Industries was the largest cargo-shipping business in the world, and R. J. Reynolds purchased the company that year for $160 million.

In the 1970’s, McLean  returned on to the shipping scene after introducing and developing large “econoships” that would carry cargo at the equator while smaller ships came and went from them, picking up and delivering containers.

Malcom McLean died in 2001. His impact on transportation is up there with Henry Ford and yet his story remains relatively unknown. Because of him we have the standard ISO 20 foot and 40 foot shipping containers today.

Look out for future posts describing their many uses!

The Port of Felixstowe welcomed the arrival of the world’s biggest container ship this month, which can carry more than 21,000 20ft containers.

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Exams finished, and final shows taken down, now’s the time when students are packing up and going home for Summer.

A great majority of Lincoln’s students are from overseas or other parts of the UK – so where do they put all the stuff they’ve hoarded during the year?

When my daughter finished her first year of university I naively drove to Oxford in blistering heat to collect her and her belongings – a suitcase and a few boxes right? No. I was shocked at the volume of stuff which had accumulated and was to be driven back to Lincoln – even worse, enter my house.

In fact, it wouldn’t even fit in the car!

That’s when I took advantage of her local storage facility … problem solved. Phew. All I needed to take back to Lincoln was her and her suitcase. Even better, I didn’t even need to drive her back again in September. Buying her a train ticket was bliss … Goodbye child and suitcase.

Student Storage

An £8 per week locker at anglia.

I’m happy to say that student storage at anglia costs a fraction of what I had to pay in Oxford – our cheapest open shelf storage starts at just £6 per week, a compartment with lockable, sliding doors like the one pictured, £8.00 and a mini unit 2.4m high! (which some students share), just £11.50 a week. Bargain. Plus, anglia self storage has a cool little van which can collect a student’s stuff and bring it to our site which is a mere half a mile away from campus.

The anglia self storage van

Benefits of using anglia self storage over the vacation :

1. Cost and time effective. Student storage starts from £6 a week.

2. Anglia self storage is only 0.6 miles from Lincoln University campus, a 10-15 minute walk, or an easy drive on the new East/West Road.

3. Our anglia van can collect and deliver your belongings for a small charge.

4. Storing at anglia over the vacation saves parents driving to Lincoln or hiring a vehicle – and also saves space back at home.

5. Security at anglia self storage is excellent and includes monitored CCTV, electronic gate and secure units. Students’ belongings are kept safe until their return the next term.

6. Overseas students can go home with minimal baggage.

7. No deposit payable.

What are you waiting for?

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The Box that changed the World – Part 1

Let me introduce you to the humble, often taken-for-granted SHIPPING CONTAINER.

A standard sea container.

Containers are integral to the BEST self storage facilities today and are often known as, ‘the boxes that changed the world’, and because we use them on anglia self storage’s site in central Lincoln we feel quite passionate about them.

They have transformed the self storage industry due to their assets including durability, strength and security. More about the modern day container later, first, I’m going to take you back in time before the shipping container existed…

For centuries mankind voyaged across the seas taking not only themselves but food, cotton, treasure and goods, the likes of which countries had never seen before, for example the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

How did they transport their goods around the world? Well they clearly shipped them, but without any standardisation it was a slow and difficult process.

In 1957 the mechanics were still the same – there still were no sea containers or intermodal transport systems. Goods were being transported from land transport to the side of the docked ship where they were loaded into sacks, crates and barrels by hand and onto the ship. It was a very labour intensive process called ‘bulk cargo’. A standardised method of transport was desperately needed – enter, Malcolm McLean, a transport business owner. 

Searching for a more efficient way to transport his clients’ cargo he had the idea of creating a standard sized trailer which could be loaded directly onto boats. His system enabled goods to be loaded DIRECTLY between trucks, trains and ship easily, quickly and cheaply, eliminating the in between handling.

In Part 2, coming soon read how McLean created perfected a new era of intermodal transportation…

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