It was different times when The Boy was born in 1975: no cell-phones; no internet; half the number of people. But somethings haven't changed, and the standard intermodal shipping container is one of them. I have internalised this because the first thing I saw when I dazed off the grounds of St. James's Hospital after hearing about his arrival was a Hapag-Lloyd TEU whizzing past on a flat-bed truck. TEU? = Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit. It seemed like an omen, so we added " Hapag " as the poor wee scrap's middle name.
Shipping containers were the brain-child of Malcom McLean the owner of a trucking company from North Carolina. In the early 1950s he bought a couple of WWII T-2 tanker ships [500ft 150m long x 70ft 20mbeam] and converted them to carry corrugated steel boxes port-to-port. He appreciated that sending several truck-loads by sea was more efficient that sending them severally by road. Slower, of course, but much less fuel and time wasn't crucial unless the cargo was lettuce. The first voyage of the SS Ideal-X from Newark to Houston in April 1956 carried just 58 containers 35ft long. That being the maximum load length for NC roads. One of the innovative break-throughs was to separate the trailer chassis from the box containing goods.
We all know about the Evergiven backlog in March. On 3rd June 2021 the OOCL Durban had a parallel-parking fail at Kaohshuing, Taiwan: colliding with a smaller moored vessel >!screeeeeeagh!< and carrying away a couple of gantry cranes. Another PoV. That put the port out of commission for a while. At the same time a Covid outbreak put the post of Kantian, China off-limits in a lockdown. 25% of all Chinese trade is funnelled through than port. More importantly, commerce has taken just-in-time inventory to the max because warehousing is a cost. This accident and quarantine has knock-on consequences across the world as ship after ship fails to meet its schedule in a domino cascade. You may have to wait for your lawn-furniture and sweat-shop shirtings.