Evolution of Global Freight; Brexit Traffic Jams; Elevating to Excellence by SIG

The Evolution of Global Freight Transportation

By Kellen Betts in Manifold

Oceans are the highways of economic development. Ships move more cargo around the world than any other form of transportation. Not every location is accessible by sea, but those that are have a distinct economic advantage, tapping global markets for goods and services more efficiently than landlocked regions.

In this essay I survey the development of cargo ships from oars and sails to steam and diesel. I also discuss containerization, the modern maritime industry, and the evolution of air cargo.

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Book of the Week

Despite great advances in propulsion with the steam and internal combustion engines, shipping was a highly labor-intensive industry for the first half of the 20th century. And most of the time and cost moving cargo was spent at port.

The ships used to move cargo during this period were breakbulk vessels designed to handle almost any type of dry cargo. At the docks, these ships were loaded and unloaded piece-by-piece by an army of longshoremen.

One solution to the high cost of freight handling was to pack cargo in large boxes—wooden crates and eventually standardized metal containers—rather than moving loose cargo. The idea seems simple enough, but it would take years to realize the true potential of the container.

In The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, Marc Levinson tells the story of how a simple metal box—and the complex global systems it moves within—changed the world. From the entrepreneurial zeal of Malcom McLean to the complex challenges of port labor relations, The Box is a fascinating and surprising history of our interconnected world.


Upcoming Events

Elevating to Excellence - People and the Business

December 9 @ 9 AM | Virtual | Free | SIG (Sourcing Industry Group)

A SIGnature Digital Event focused on buy-side professionals, this half-day event will feature roundtables on external labor spend and accelerating innovation in sourcing, as well as talks on collaboration and contract challenges in the pandemic, and the post-COVID contingent workforce.

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By the Numbers

5 miles

With the Brexit deadline coming on December 31, French border authorities conducted a stress test of the border, checking papers for trucks crossing from Britain into France similar to how they would in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The result was a 5-mile backup that lasted until late in the afternoon.


About Us

Kellen Betts is Co-Editor of Supply Chain Weekly. He also writes the newsletter Manifold, exploring the intersection of supply chain, sustainability, and technology. Contact him at kellen@supplychainweekly.com. Follow him on LinkedIn.

Miguel Garcia Gonzalez, CPIM is Co-Editor of Supply Chain Weekly. He sources technology at Amazon and leads the Discord Supply Chain server on logistics, procurement, certifications, news, and more. Contact him at miguel@supplychainweekly.com. Follow him on LinkedIn and @mggSCM.