The Box

The Box by Marc Levinson (no relation, despite the fact he writes books on transportation) is a new book on the history of container shipping. It is a fascinating account of this method of shipping's birth in multiple places, but primarily fostered by Malcom McLean, through its growth and expansion, driving the evolution of both the ships that containers sail on as well as the ports at which they are transferred.

The book covers topics ranging from labor union issues with automation, the politics of New York as container shipping moved to New Jersey, through the politics of competing standard setting processes that determined the size of containers, and the Vietnam War as the military turned to standardized containers to untangle the shipping mess found in Southeast Asia in the 1960s.

It is an exceedingly well-written book that I would recommend to anyone interested in history of technology, transportation, economics, or 20th century American history. It is well researched, with over 85 pages of notes and references (for 278 pages of text).

The book, penned by an economist, (in fact, by a writer for The Economist) clearly points out the tradeoffs between fixed and variable costs of moving to this incredibly capital intensive mode, and of the increasing scale of container ships and ports.

The conflicts between port uses and other land uses were not brought out as much as it might have been, though the location of new container ports at new sites far from old city centers is an indicator that price of land, as well as institutional legacy, are important costs that central cities impose on trade.

-- dml

David Levinson

Network Reliability in Practice

Evolving Transportation Networks

Place and Plexus

The Transportation Experience

Access to Destinations

Assessing the Benefits and Costs of Intelligent Transportation Systems

Financing Transportation Networks

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This page contains a single entry by David Levinson published on June 6, 2006 12:29 PM.

Airport Security was the previous entry in this blog.

High Speed Rail Fact Sheet is the next entry in this blog.

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