New and Used Shipping Containers for Sale

New and Used Shipping Containers for Sale in South Africa


The volume of goods transported by sea has been increasing steadily since maritime trade began. To keep pace with the rising demand, ship owners have had to extend their fleets or commission bigger vessels with correspondingly enlarged cargo space. The process of loading and unloading cargo, however, remained slow, adding to the ship owners’ costs, and thus forcing up transport costs. All that changed during the mid-1950s with the launch of a converted tanker, by one Malcolm McLean. His ship carried the first precursors of the shipping containers offered for sale today.

The ground-breaking maiden voyage of that vessel, re-named the SS Ideal X, marked a turning point in marine cargo history. Dockers at the US port of New Jersey succeeded in loading her with 58 fully laden, uniformly sized, stackable metal boxes in a record time of under eight hours. More significantly, this revolutionary concept served to reduce the prevailing cost of $5.86 to load each ton of cargo to a mere 16 cents. Today, discounting the new shipping containers for sale, there are more than five million of these rectangular metal boxes at sea, and perhaps a further twelve million ashore, awaiting loading or unloading or just providing some convenient storage space.

While, 60 years ago, that load of 58 units was an unprecedented achievement, it doesn’t come close to the numbers carried today. Modern cargo vessels now dwarf the record-breaking SS Ideal X, with some able to hold as many as 20 000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). Thanks to the foresight of one American trucker, shipping containers for sale now transport some 1,6 billion tons of cargo across the world’s oceans every year, and that figure is growing.

It was the Vietnam War and the US government’s need to supply its armed forces on the other side of the world that gave McLean’s brainchild its biggest boost. The conflict also highlighted the need for containers of a uniform size. In 1968, that need prompted the International Standards Organisation (ISO) to define seven standard lengths that would apply to all shipping containers offered for sale in future.

One interesting legacy of the south-east Asian war was the use of empty containers to provide temporary, waterproof shelter for military personnel. These steel units are among the most robust modular structures in existence. Whether the idea was born in Vietnam or not, decommissioned units are now widely used to provide temporary and even permanent accommodation for many different purposes.

Summer houses, site offices, and lock-up storage facilities are just a few of the possible applications for the many used shipping containers for sale worldwide.