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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 20 January 2012
How on earth can a book about container shipping be 'fascinating'?

The author describes the history and development of container shipping, relating it to the relevant political, commercial, societal and historical events and technological developments taking place at the same time. Thus it becomes a clear, well-written history of economics, mostly from the second half of the 20th century, but from the point of view of the growing use of the container.

It makes a very good argument for the influence of the shipping container being an important factor (at the least) in forming the nature of the global economy we have today. It gives some thought-provoking ideas as to why some places have assumed the importance in the world economy that they have.

It's very readable and I always wanted to read 'just one more page' to see what happened next.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 February 2015
Brilliant book. The story of the shipping container, well written, captivating and full of detail (but not mundane). If you are interested in the modern world, untold stories, or Business/Start-ups etc. then I'd recommend this book to you.

This book is a combination of Moneyball, Business Adventures and Vanished Kingdoms. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game because it is well-written and surprisingly difficult to put down, Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street because it is clearly thoroughly researched and Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe because I got the same feeling of "I had no idea that any of this happened despite it impacting everything".

I hope you enjoy it too!
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Much as this is predominantly a business book, full of figures and statistics, it's also the gripping tale of a man's vision and ambition, a history book, perhaps even a sociology book. It's often a bit too detailed. There's little chance I'll remember any of the copious data, and the story would have been just as compelling without it, but I guess it was such hard work collecting it (there is no single source for shipping data) that the author did not have the heart to shove it into an appendix.

Regardless, I wolfed this book down and it's fair to say I found it entertaining and informative in equal measure. Malcom McLean's invention of the container business is fascinating both from a human perspective (including the catastrophic repercussions this disruptive new technology had on entire communities of longshoremen it made redundant), but also as a history of the heavily regulated postwar economy. So the author takes you blow by blow through the hoops McLean, originally a trucker, had to jump through as he navigated the rules and regulations, the politics of unionised labor, the entrenched railroad and shipping-line monopolies as well as hostile harbors and the high seas. How he took advantage of government subsidies and handouts, how he leaned on his banker (Walter Wriston, no less), how he kept a keen eye on costs, and of course how he was not afraid to follow his gut instinct, twice over to triumph and eventually to ruin.

The bigger picture is discussed as well. The container is discussed in the context of globalization, just-in-time manufacturing and the redrawing of the map in terms of manufacturing, urbanisation and economic development in general.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 23 July 2006
I bought this book as I had observed the progress of the shipping container with interest and wanted to know the background. This book told me that background and corrected some false assumptions.

I had assumed progress was straightforward only to learn that there was a lot of opposition and politics held it back for a long time. I also assumed that it was easy to make money as it seemed such a winner. In fact after a few years the inventor faced common business obstacles such as supply and demand getting out of balance and the oil price changing violently.

I assumed that there was only one size when in fact there were many standard sizes though economics narrowed the range in practice.

I saw there is another book on the same subject Box Boats: How Container Ships Changed the World (Hardcover)

by Brian J. Cudahyon on Amazon at the time I bought mine.
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on 9 September 2012
This book is a wonderful history of something that we take for granted and anyone who travels along our roads, will see every day - the shipping container.

It is the contention of the author, and I agree, that this is the single most important, none electronic, development of the 20th Century. It not only reduced the time that ships spent in port, it also moved the port from a coastal or river location to anywhere that containers can be stored and moved.

The impact of the container can be seen on every high street where imported goods are purchased. The influx of cheap imports of finished goods and raw materials has led the way to consumer goods at a cost that makes them everyday commodities instead of rare luxuries.

An excellent book. If I have one regret, it is far too expensive as an ebook. It's a pity the same economies of scale cannot be aimed at this.
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Not what I expected, though certainly not disappointed.

Provided a fascinating insight into the history of sea transportation, the rise and fall of some of the world's largest ports, the foresight of Malcom McLean and the seemingly arbitrary decisions which means now the world standard for containers 20' and 40'.

Recommended to those involved in the transportation industry and/or enjoy history.

Would have enjoyed a little more detail on the engineering aspect of the container's design, otherwise an enjoyable read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 January 2015
A fine history. Could be written with half the words. Was hoping for more about contemporary box logistics but these are not covered.
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on 12 February 2014
Parts of this book were recommended by a lecturer on Coursera. The subject matter seems mundane, but soon one is taken across a deeply engaging history of politics, labour, economic decline, rampant entrepreneurialism (is that even a word?) and, of course, the humble container.

For anyone interested in an understanding of how disruptive innovations can burst across society in unexpected ways, this book should be read with glee.
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on 15 September 2013
I just started working for an Logistics company on the Ocean freight department, and I wanted to get some background information about the business.
Besides having lots of information, I found that this book was also very interesting and really gave me a notion of the importance of the container. Highly recommend it, even for people who do not relate with the industry, but that have an interest in economical history.
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on 19 April 2015
I found this book surprisingly interesting, informative and easy to read. It traces the historical development of containerisation dealing with problems of setting the size standards, the unions, Vietnam as a driving force etc. The edition is 2006 and things move fast in this business so an update would be nice but you can get more recent data in Wikipedia etc. Recommended.
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