This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of container shipping.
Fifty years ago April 26, a trucker from rural North Carolina ran an experiment here that forever altered international trade and the global economy.
While many scoffed, Malcolm McLean hired a crane to hoist 58 trailer-sized steel cargo boxes onto a Texas-bound freighter. It was an alternative to the then-ubiquitous "break-bulk" shipping, the costly, pilferage-prone method dramatized in the film "On the Waterfront."
Now, shipping everything from clothing to razor blades to electronics in secured metal containers is the norm. Breakage and theft have been dramatically curtailed, and average shipping costs have fallen from 15% of retail value to less than 1%. At the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's facilities in Newark, N.J. and Elizabeth, N.J., containerization accounts for 94% of the cargo, with break bulk about 1%; automobiles account for the remainder.