Containerization (or containerisation) is a system of intermodal freight transport using standard ISO containers (known as shipping containers, ITUs (Intermodal Transport Units or isotainers) that can be loaded and sealed intact onto container ships, railroad cars, planes, and trucks.
Although there have been few direct correlations made between containers and job losses, there are number of texts associated with job losses at least in part with containerization. A 1998 study of post-containerization employment at United States ports found that container cargo could be moved nearly twenty times faster than pre-container break bulk. The new system of shipping also allowed for freight consolidating jobs to move from the waterfront to points far inland, which also decreased the number of waterfront jobs.
Additional Fuel Costs
Containerisation increases the fuel costs of transport and reduces the capacity of the transport as the container itself must be shipped around not just the goods. For certain bulk products this makes containerisation unattractive. For most goods the increased fuel costs and decreased transport efficiencies are currently more than offset by the handling savings. On railway the capacity of the container is far from its maximum weight capacity, and the weight of a railcar must be transported with not so much goods. In some areas (mostly USA and Canada) containers are double stacked, but this is usually not possible in other countries.
Containers have been used to smuggle contraband. The vast majority of containers are never subjected to scrutiny due to the large number of containers in use. In recent years there have been increased concerns that containers might be used to transport terrorists or terrorist materials into a country undetected. The U.S. government has advanced the Container Security Initiative (CSI), intended to ensure that high-risk cargo is examined or scanned, preferably at the port of departure.
Containers are intended to be used constantly, being loaded with new cargo for new destination soon after having emptied from previous cargo. This is not always possible, and in some cases the cost of transporting an empty container to a place where it can be used is considered to be higher than the worth of the used container. This can result in large areas in ports and warehouses being occupied by empty containers left abandoned. However, empty containers may also be recycled in the form of shipping container architecture, or the steel content salvaged.
Loss at sea
Containers occasionally fall from the ships that carry them, usually during storms; it is estimated that over 10,000 containers are lost at sea each year. For instance, on November 30, 2006, a container washed ashore on the Outer Banks of North Carolina USA, along with thousands of bags of its cargo of Doritos Chips. Containers lost at sea do not necessarily sink, but seldom float very high out of the water, making them a shipping hazard that is difficult to detect. Freight from lost containers has provided oceanographers with unexpected opportunities to track global ocean currents, notably a cargo of Friendly Floatees.
In 2007 the International Chamber of Shipping and the World Shipping Council began working on a code of practice for container storage, including crew training on parametric rolling, safer stacking and marking of containers and security for above-deck cargo in heavy swell.