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4.6 out of 5 stars38
4.6 out of 5 stars
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The most easy read and simple-approached to Maritime business I have ever read, was this book.
If one wishes to understand the processes of a port in a simple yet revealing way,
then this book is the best that s/he can get.

Ideal for newcomers in the maritime business, as a training refresh course material, for students
of MBA specializing in Maritime and Marine Terminals and for those that would like to have
knowledge on how this incredible business works.
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VINE VOICEon 5 November 2011
The Box How the Shipping container made the world Smaller and the world economy bigger Marc Levinson

Not immediately a topic that you would think would be that interesting but I have some connection with the container in that I remember first seeing them in about 1968 off the coast of Vietnam. I saw what appeared to be huge ships with names like Sea land New Jersey waiting off the Mekong River in Vietnam.
They were supplying the US army in their bid to beat the communists. I was on a small tanker that was able to go up the Mekong River and we were supplying them with naphtha for airplanes.
I never worked on a cargo ship but I used to see plenty of them, at that time ships were loaded and unloaded by hand. I further remember seeing them in Liverpool in 1969. Now of course forty years later the container is ubiquitous and I was interested to see how they arose.
Like most ideas it is remarkably simple but it took a long time to be accepted because it was so revolutionary. Also the shipping industry had vested interests mainly the labour that were well paid and had a monopoly on loading and unloading ships.
Now of course there do not appear to be trades like stevedores (whatever they were) or longshoremen as the Americans call them. Now everything goes in a box and remains in the box until it arrives at its destination.
When people talk about what has changed out world they cite things like the internet as it is easy to order things all over the world. I would suggest it is the container which allows goods to be manufactured in another country and easily transported to its destination. The other is the bar code so that once it is in the box it can be tracked so we know wherever it is.
The final invention or development is Just in time. The last chapter in the book brigs all the developments of the box together with the arrival of Just in time. Now because transportation and manufacture in other countries is so easy you now do not need a large inventory as you can arrange for the deliveries to be coordinated so that there is smooth flow of work without interruption. You can see it in supermarkets which have great wagons turning up regularly to supply the shops the same apply to manufacture so that parts can be delivered from all over the world and constructed onsite

The old docks have changed beyond recognition. I live not far from Harwich and have seen huge ships loaded up with containers. You can't believe that the ship does no topple over. The roads are full of container Lorries covering the country.
The economies of whole countries have been changed as now the manufacturers do not need to be near the consumers as was the case in the past. Transport costs are cheap and goods can criss cross the world which has entirely changed are cosumig habits. I can have any fruit I like in the supermarket as somewhere it in the world it is in season.
The book confirms it was the Vietnam War that changed the face of shipping as they had to build docks and supply the US forces as easily as possible so I was watching a revolution when I saw Sea Land New Jersey. I learnt about the pull supply system whereby the consumer requests and it is supplied rather than the push system whereby the inventory piles up until it is needed.
The US took over the supply by building their own ports such as Cam Ranh Bay which I visited. The Vietnamese system was full of corruption.
It took time to break down prejudices and build new sites such as Felixstowe which is now huge and London docks have now disappeared.
I was surprised how regulated US trade was as I thought their ability to compete was built on free trade but it wasn't. It was built on keeping other people out of their huge market. It is only in more recent years have things like shipping and transport regulation been changed.
This book is well researched in that it is 278 pages long. It has 82 pages of notes so you cannot fault the scholarship and also 11 pages of index what more could you possibly want to know about containers. It would satisfy the most train spotterish container nerd, but it is also a satisfying read for the non-specialist like me.
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on 1 January 2010
The Box How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger

I was motivated to buy this book having witnessed first hand the rise in the amount of product shipped by container in the last decade, but then wondered why on earth I was buying such a book. I shouldn't have done; this is an incredibly well-written book about what could be seen to be a mundane and uninspiring subject.

The author combines economics, history, the story of the interference by Port Authorities and Unions and the lack of interest from other areas of the transportation industries, and explains the rise, fall and rise again of the shipping industry whilst pointing out why some locations prospered whilst others faded away.

The parts of the story covered include the initial attempts at containerization, the fight to obtain shipping routes and the role of the Vietnam War in helping in the rise of the containers. Also included are the drawn out process to standardize the containers used, the effect of the price of oil and the rise in world trade.

Altogether this is an unexpectedly fascinating account of the history of an area that has undoubtedly affected all of our lives, even if it has largely gone unnoticed by the majority of consumers. Congratulations to the author.
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on 18 November 2007
This is a good book to explain how a simple obvious invention changed the world, against the massed ranks of opposition of everybody from rail companies, trade unions and politicians. It changed the geography of every port, and hence most cities, by dooming "the docks" as they had been for centuries to history and eventually turning decaying ex-working class communities into the new location for offices, shops and above all trendy flats.
It means that in Dubai you can have raspberries from California, tomatoes from Spain, beef from South Africa and almost anything else from China and all at reasonable prices.
All this took place in thirty years and nobody, until now, has explained how and why it happened. This book shows how even a great idea must have visionaries to fight for it to succeed and sometimes these people pay a high price for their ideas.
It takes a bit of effort in places to read all the tedious disputes but it well worth staying the course and understand the effects of the many changes that the container brought to all of us.
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on 20 May 2008
I liked this book a lot. Its a history of the shipping container but it draws in much more. As an aside there is a good account of ports and unionised port labour - and how that influenced the development of the container.
What is most striking for a technology that has come to dominate this mode of transport is:
* how conservative the industry was at the outset and how much it resisted the container
* how quickly the technology changed during the early days - ship sizes, container size, the power of ships, etc.
* innovative players often saw the container as a way to improve their advantage. The same process meant that dominant players weren't (initially) interested in the container.
Well written and well researched. The evolving story kept me reading in a way that many business books don't achieve.
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on 22 November 2009
Instead of writing about the "Great Men" and their "Great Ideas", the Economics historians should focus more on things like the ones explained in this book: how a few businessmen, despite the interference from unions, cartels, governments, and each other, managed to change the World more thoroughly than even themselves thought possible. This is the history of how a seemingly counterintuitive idea (at the beginning it was actually more expensive to ship by container than loose) started a silent revolution in shipping which transformed the way the economies of the World are run. If you want to know how creative destruction actually works, and why Free Markets are superior to centralised planning, you will be hard pressed to find a better example than the rise of the container ("The Box").

This book has one other virtue: as you read of the machinations and dealings of trade unions, cartels, and governments trying to stop progress and protect their cosy monopolistic ways, you realise how, no matter what excuses are put forward, regulation is ALWAYS an attempt to stiff the consumer.
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on 30 January 2011
This is the story of how world changed because one man speculated there was a more efficient way to do something that had remained unchanged for 3,000 years. It is truly inspiring while it could have been dull in the hands of a lesser writer instead this book is extremely well written, wide in scope and deep in detail.

Rattles along like a novel; there's our hero Malcom McLean, his quest, there are internal and external challenges - the rising challenges, the falling challenges. As a true story of success and achievement in history - this has it all, a unique hero who successfully lead three flotations on the NYSE. A real page turner - not something often said about Logistics!
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on 27 February 2010
I found this book an excellent record of recent 'living history' of the dramatic transition from traditional methods of transporting goods using break-bulk cargo ships ot full containerisation. Having worked on cargo ships in the 1970's and seen the demise of many long etablished shipping company's (PSNC who I worked for were established in 1838!), I often wondered how and why these companys collapsed in such a short period of time. I have also wondered how Southampton fits into the global picture of globalisation, particularly as the port has remained a busy container port for around the past 30-35 years. This book answers all of these questions and gives a very clear picture of what has been going on silently behind the scenes and not generally reported in mass media.
I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn about how and why the method of transporting goods has changed the face of shipping in the past 50 years. Thanks for a great read.
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on 19 January 2012
It is hard to imagine a topic as mundane as Containers could be so interesting.But Levinson suceeds in blending in sufficient statistics, anecdotes to inform and yet not overwhelm. You get to know the major players, losers and even some of the villains.

On the very first page he has these lines
"What is it about the container that is so important? Surely not the thing itself. A soulless aluminum or steel box held together with welds and rivets, with a wooden floor and two enormous doors at one end:the standard container has all the romance of a tin can"

The book is not a dispassionate business book and you do get a feeling that Levinson himself ended up more than a bit in awe of the container by the end of his research.He has a great ability to blend small local details into the broader global implications.

For such a simple technology it shear impact on the world we live in is both surprising and also more than a bit disturbing. There really is no going back to days of "on the Waterfront" for so many reasons.
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on 5 June 2009
What a well researched and well written book. The impact of the container may well have as much an influence of the world as the computer. It is not so "sexy" as the computer, but has brought about huge(and irreversable)changes.
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