Source: adapted from A. Ashar (2002), Revolution now, Containerization International, January.
The scope of maritime containerized operations has substantially improved since the introduction of the container in the late 1950s. The diffusion of the container took place over several waves, each characterized by technical and market opportunities:
- Containerization permitted the improvement of maritime transshipments (ship to shore), which opened new commercial opportunities for cargo flows.
- Intermodal transportation mostly concerned the development of inland transportation made accessible to containers. In the United States, the landbridge is a relevant example of this process applied to long-distance inland containerized shipments. Containers were thus able to move in and out of ports more efficiently.
- The emergence of intermediate hubs (offshore terminals) created a new hierarchy within the port system, acting as intermediate locations. Additionally, the efficiency and capacity of container cranes improved, enabling ports to handle larger ships and a higher containerized throughput.
- The application of maritime logistics and the setting of global port holdings enabled the global management of maritime containerized freight distribution. It focuses on the “door-to-door” aspect of transportation and how maritime transport contributes to the overall effectiveness of transport chains. A growing level of integration between maritime shipping companies, terminal operators, and inland carriers. The emergence of port-centric logistics is also part of this evolution.
The question remains about vessel size that has surged in the 1990s and what will be the optimal containership size as well as the composition of the global maritime fleet.