International Cargo Transport and The Environment


The cargo container has revolutionized the way the global economy works and has not only created a more efficient method of international trade, it’s become an underlying constant to stem growth of international gross domestic product.  It’s commonly talked about how the invention of the cargo container has had this huge impact, but the effects on our environment, not always bad, have also been significant and should be addressed.

One of the most positive aspects of the shipping container when it comes to global transport is the fact that these cargo boxes are manufactured to be some of the strongest modular structures in the world and therefore the amount of cargo that one unit can carry over it’s lease term is astounding.  These ocean freight containers are being built to carry cargo, and do so for 10 years or more. After, these containers can become part of an entirely new world of shipping container structures including portable storage space, portable offices, disaster relief shelters, dorm rooms and housing, just to name a few.  Point being is that the shipping container is the epitome of recycling and re-purposing.  There is something to be said for one structure that is manufactured in Asia carries cargo for huge multinational companies for more than a decade and is then re-purposed multiple times, all the while having the potential of being someones home one day! We can learn from this concept, though not a new one, it seems to be lost in translation on smaller scale efforts.  Some of these gigantic manufacturing industries need to be more conscientious of their product from the outset, creating something that can be used through multiple phases, with many different functions.

Environmental Impacts of Shipping Containers


Going over percentages and numbers as they relate to Cargo Container Ships and Maritime transport can be staggering at first glance and is often misleading.  Cargo Container Ships are actually some of the most carbon efficient means of transporting cargo –  and with most of the world’s manufactured goods being carried by ship, this process is most definitely on the right track.  The increased efficiency has also led to environmental benefits associated with the movement of cargo.  Regulatory efforts on emissions by the World Shipping Council (WSC)  are also leading to what could be drastic change in the output of Co2 and other harmful gases

One of the primary concerns with Cargo Container Transport has been Vessel Discharge.  Ballast water, gray and black water are all forms of discharge that are routinely released off the liners.  The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adopted a set of guidelines that will help regulate vessel discharge to an extent where the impact on invasive marine species is lessened significantly.


repurposed shipping container

Shipping containers repurposed for housing

Millions of cargo containers are used throughout the international supply chain and are used and re-purposed many many times after their shipping life has expired. Cargo containers have created an auxiliary industry for containers and their uses. We’ve seen and created some incredible container modifications using a variety of one-trip and used containers. Container Alliance works through a trusted network of companies that work throughout the United States to provide exceptional quality shipping containers for sale or rent, for any purpose or project. Beyond re-purposing, it is now possible to recycle almost 99% of most containers to make new steel products. The international cargo shipping industry has taken the container and created a streamlined product that end users have embraced as an affordable, viable and environmentally sound method for mobile storage of goods.

New Materials

Floors of cargo containers have typically been manufactured using tropical hardwoods.   It takes approximately two cubic meters of hardwood to floors for three 40 foot containers.  The cargo container industry uses roughly 1.5 million cubic meters of hardwood per year to meet global demand.  There is an obvious change that needs to take place within this area of the container world.  Some of the largest shipping lines have vowed to only buy containers that use “responsible forestry” in their manufacturing.  Change has already started to take place with more sustainable floor types being used and new products being tested constantly.

This is all we can hope for, is that the industry recognizes their misgivings and works diligently to alleviate the problems that have severe impacts on our environment. Since 2007, Container Alliance has adopted, Reduce – Reuse – Recycle as our core environmental philosophy in regards to shipping containers. Learn how used cargo containers can help your business reduce waste, transportation costs, and more.

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