The Fourth Revolution – long-term container shipping developments

Evolution and revolutions: scale and scope economies

A conceptually convenient way of depicting the history of liner shipping is as a combination of one, continuous evolution and several, successive revolutions. The evolution relates to the continuously increasing size of ships and ports in the pursuit  of economies of scale. The revolutions relate to a series of technological breakthroughs, expanding the boundaries of the shipping system in the pursuit of economies of scope. The first revolution was the unitization of cargo, or containerization, focusing on the ship to shore transfer process and inducing the development of specialized ships and ports. The second was the expansion of containerization to land transport modes, or intermodalism, using the marine boxes for the entire ship to door transport process. This revolution was facilitated by the development of unit-trains with articulated, double stack railcars, on or near dock intermodal yards to handle them, domestic containers (in the US) and near dock transloading terminals to transfer the content of marine to domestic boxes, and hinterland “dry” ports, serving as extensions of the marine ones. The third revolution included the development of transshipment, or ship to ship transfer, linking together different shipping services and expanding the reach of container shipping to smaller ports…

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Dr. Asaf Ashar, Research Professor, National Ports & Waterways Initiative (NPWI), LA, US
Edition: Edition 55

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