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Shipping Container Vessels

On 26 April 1956, Malcom McLean’s converted WW2 tanker (named the Ideal X) made its maiden voyage from Port Newark to Houston in the USA. It had a reinforced deck carrying 58 metal container boxes as well as 15,000 tons of bulk petroleum.

By the time the container ship docked at the Port of Houston six days later, the company was already taking orders to ship goods back to Port Newark in containers. McLean’s enterprise later became known as Sea-Land Services, a logistics company whose ships carried cargo-laden truck trailers, (the original blueprint for shipping containers – first ship specifically designed for transporting containers was Sea-Land’s Gateway City) between Northern and Southern ports in the USA.

It did not take long for others to see the lubricous potential in this new and exploding market, and other companies soon turned to this approach.

Two years later, Matson Navigation Company’s ship (the Hawaiian Merchant) began container shipping in the Pacific, carrying 20 containers from Alameda to Honolulu. In 1960, Matson Navigation Company completed construction of the “Hawaiian Citizen”, the company?s first full container ship. Meanwhile, Sea-Land’s Gateway City made its maiden voyage on 4 October 1957 from Port Newark to Miami.

Starting a regular journey between Port Newark, Miami, Houston and Tampa it required only two gangs of dockworkers to load and unload, and could move cargo at the rate of 264 tons an hour. Shortly afterwards, the Santa Eliana (operated by Grace Line) became the first fully containerized ship to enter foreign trade when she set sail for Venezuela in January 1960. The modern age of shipping container logistics had well and truly begun.