In April 1956, a refitted oil tanker carried fifty-eight shipping containers from Newark to Houston. From that modest beginning, container shipping developed into a huge industry that made the boom in global trade possible. "The Box" tells the dramatic story of the container's creation, the decade of struggle before it was widely adopted, and the sweeping economic consequences of the sharp fall in transportation costs that containerization brought about. Published on the fiftieth anniversary of the first container voyage, this is the first comprehensive history of the shipping container. It recounts how the drive and imagination of an iconoclastic entrepreneur, Malcom McLean, turned containerization from an impractical idea into a massive industry that slashed the cost of transporting goods around the world and made the boom in global trade possible.But the container didn't just happen. Its adoption required huge sums of money, both from private investors and from ports that aspired to be on the leading edge of a new technology.
It required years of high-stakes bargaining with two of the titans of organized labor, Harry Bridges and Teddy Gleason, as well as delicate negotiations on standards that made it possible for almost any container to travel on any truck or train or ship. Ultimately, it took McLean's success in supplying U.S. forces in Vietnam to persuade the world of the container's potential.Drawing on previously neglected sources, economist Marc Levinson shows how the container transformed economic geography, devastating traditional ports such as New York and London and fueling the growth of previously obscure ones, such as Oakland. By making shipping so cheap that industry could locate factories far from its customers, the container paved the way for Asia to become the world's workshop and brought consumers a previously unimaginable variety of low-cost products from around the globe.
Table of Contents
Preface to the Paperback Edition ix Acknowledgments xv Chapter 1: The World the Box Made 1 Chapter 2: Gridlock on the Docks 16 Chapter 3: The Trucker 36 Chapter 4: The System 54 Chapter 5: The Battle for New York's Port 76 Chapter 6: Union Disunion 101 Chapter 7: Setting the Standard 127 Chapter 8: Takeoff 150 Chapter 9: Vietnam 171 Chapter 10: Ports in a Storm 189 Chapter 11: Boom and Bust 212 Chapter 12: The Bigness Complex 231 Chapter 13: The Shippers' Revenge 245 Chapter 14: Just in Time 264 Abbreviations 279 Notes 281 Bibliography 343 Index 365
Winner of Society for Nautical Research: Anderson Medal 2007.
Winner of Independent Publisher Book Awards: Finance/Investment/Economics Bronze Award 2007.
Runner-up for John Lyman Book Award: Science and Technology 2006.
Shortlisted for Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award 2006.
Marc Levinson is an economist in New York and author of three previous books. He was formerly finance and economics editor of the "Economist", a writer at "Newsweek", and editorial director of the "Journal of Commerce".