Many people know what shipping containers are, but not many know exactly how containerization transformed world trade and globalization today. The largest container transport ships today can carry 18,000 shipping containers overseas. Containerized shipping has lowered transport costs and allowed access to goods from anywhere in the world.
“Globalization as we understand it today, simply would never have existed without it [containerization].” – Financial Times
This shipping container documentary, The Mega Ship, follows one of the largest shipping container vessels, “The Atlanta” as she navigates her way through the difficult and dangerous Singapore and Malacca Straits into the vast South China Seas and beyond. In one year, this ship travels over 2/3 of the way to the moon and carries over 200,000 containers. Worth 4.5 billion dollars, the Atlanta has a crew of only 22 people. The crew must be ready to handle any emergency including weather and modern day pirates. The Atlanta is built to sail extremely fast averaging about 23 nautical miles per hour. This means the ship is burning 240 tons of gasoline a day so the crew must be ready for any sort of fire emergency. In order to prepare for the most dangerous situation, a fire in the engine, the crew undergoes an extensive fire drill each week.
We follow the Atlanta as it faces one of the most stressful times for a ship of this size, arriving at port. The busy waterways prove difficult and dangerous to navigate through for a ship the size of a 10 story building. In order to successfully get through the waters into the port, they call in a harbor export. Through a number of specific maneuvers and careful movement, the Atlanta makes it into the Singapore port.
Among the standard 20’ and 40’ cargo containers the Atlanta carries, are refrigerated containers called “reefers.” The refrigerated containers rely on electricity and the crew has to check on them twice a day. The Atlanta can carry over 700 of these units that can carry millions of dollars worth of food. The ship also contains a desalinization plant that allows the seawater to be converted for consumption. As the crew travel into Southern China waters, they must be wary of pirates looking to either take the crew hostage or steal money and valuables. They make it through only to met by a dangerous storm. The captain gambles to sail into the storm and makes it through. The journey for these giant container vessels is not an easy task, and there are many threats that emerge.
And the purpose of it all? On board the captain has precious cargo worth millions of dollars, cleverly loaded in over 8000 shipping containers, which he must deliver to their eager owners, intact and on time.
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