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Why have shipping containers been so important in the growth of international trade?

A-Level, IB
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB, Eduqas, WJEC

Last updated 3 Feb 2023

The widespread adoption of shipping containers has had a profound impact on international trade, enabling faster, cheaper, and more secure transportation of goods, and driving economic growth and globalization.

Shipping containers have been so important in the growth of international trade for several reasons:

  1. Standardisation: Shipping containers are standardized in size and design, which makes them easily transferable between ships, trains, and trucks, and reduces the need for costly and time-consuming manual handling and repackaging.
  2. Cost efficiency: The use of shipping containers has greatly reduced the cost of international transportation, as goods can be packed, shipped, and unloaded with minimal handling, reducing the risk of damage or loss. This also makes shipping more reliable and predictable, which helps businesses plan and manage their supply chains more effectively.
  3. Increased trade volume: The efficiency and cost savings of shipping containers have made international trade more accessible to a wider range of businesses, enabling them to sell their products in new markets, and encouraging greater trade volume and growth.
  4. Improved security: Shipping containers provide a secure and controlled environment for goods in transit, reducing the risk of theft or damage. This enhances the reliability and security of international trade, making it more attractive to businesses and investors.

Which are the biggest container ports in the world?

In 2021, the biggest container ports in the world by volume were:

  1. Shanghai, China
  2. Singapore
  3. Shenzhen, China
  4. Ningbo-Zhoushan, China
  5. Rotterdam, Netherlands
  6. Hong Kong, China
  7. Busan, South Korea
  8. Guangzhou, China
  9. Qingdao, China
  10. Tianjin, China

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