container_ship_revolution

container_ship_revolution - TR NEWS 246 SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER...

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Unformatted text preview: TR NEWS 246 SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2006 5 The author is a transpor- tation and maritime historian whose books include the recent Box Boats , as well as Around Manhattan Island: And Other Maritime Tales of New York and A Century of Subways: Celebrating 100 Years of New York’s Underground Railways. He is a director of the Steamship Historical Society of America and lives in Bluffton, South Carolina. B rowsing through a general-purpose book- shop section on “Transport by Sea” would lead to titles on the stately passenger liners of yesteryear, old-fashioned paddle-wheel steamboats, luxury cruise ships, and warships of every shape and size. Few, if any, volumes would cover the seagoing merchant vessels that exercise enormous influence on the national economy—cargo ships. Overseas trade has assumed unimaginable pro- portions in the past half century. Although some commodities are transported most readily by air, and some high-value cargo such as software can travel from continent to continent electronically, the great bulk of world trade is carried across the seven seas by cargo ships. Many commodities are transported in bulk, and specialized vessels have been developed to accom- modate this trade. Fleets of giant tankers move petroleum products from producers to consumers, and similar vessels carry such diverse cargo as cement, coal, and grain. The automobile industry has developed the car carrier, a unique vessel that allows vehicles to be driven on and off the ship, and other kinds of large and high-value commodities typically travel on flatbed trailers aboard similar roll on–roll off vessels. Just about everything else—from boxes of crayons to crates of cereal, television sets to garden tools, model railroad trains to baseball gloves, men’s shirts to women’s shoes—travels across the sea from factory to market aboard fleets of huge containerships. These vessels have played a critical role in allowing the world’s economy to assume global dimensions. A Vision Takes Shape To understand how and why the modern container- ship evolved, turn back the calendar to Thanksgiving week in the prewar year of 1937. The owner of a small trucking firm in North Carolina had ventured north to New York harbor with bales of export cotton to be loaded aboard a ship bound for Istanbul. 1 The man grew irritated when he had to wait for days while longshoremen slowly loaded cargo aboard the vessel. In those days, a cargo ship typically would spend as much time in port being loaded and unloaded as it did sailing the seven seas. Cargo included a bewil- 1 McLean often identified the site as Hoboken, New Jersey, but freight bound for Istanbul was more likely to leave from the foot of Exchange Place in Jersey City. American Export Line’s Examelia was loaded there in November 1937 for a transatlantic voyage to Istanbul and other Mediterranean ports....
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container_ship_revolution - TR NEWS 246 SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER...

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