On April 26, 1956, the first shipment of containerized cargo departed from Port Elizabeth, New Jersey, for Houston, ushering in a revolution in global trade.  

By hoisting no more and no less than a truck’s container into the hold of a ship, onto the flatbed of a train, or even into cargo airplanes, entrepreneur Malcom McLean became the unsung star of globalization. He could see the future unfold and said so: “People are never going to pay a lot of money just to move things.”

Prior to container shipping, two ten-mile moves through ports might account for half the costs of a four-thousand-mile shipment. Why? Because swaggering, Brando-like longshoremen had to manually transfer close to two hundred thousand items, one at a time, between ships, trucks and trains.

Inside intermodal containers, products remained stored from the point of manufacture to delivery, lowering the possibility of damage. Rather than taking weeks to unload a ship it now took hours, and the cost plummeted from $5.86 per ton to just 16 cents. 

“The container made shipping cheap, and by doing so changed the shape of the world economy,” writes Mark Levinson in The Box, a comprehensive history of the shipping container. “This new economic geography allowed firms whose ambitions had been purely domestic to become international companies, exporting their products almost as effortlessly as selling them nearby.”

Source: CEI Manufacturing

Deciding where to produce goods came down solely to cost rather than proximity to consumers. Several Asian countries reaped the benefits f