Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Box

Levinson's The Box is a thorough guide to the history of the shipping container. You might think this would make for extremely dry reading, and you'd be right. I have to admit, it wasn't easy getting through this one, but that doesn't mean it wasn't very educational.

Historically, shipping has been a labour-intensive operation. Combined with some aspects of shipping ports (they take a long time to build, they have few substitutes), this has resulted in a strong union presence in the industry that put up a rigid cost structure that essentially capped global trade for several decades.

But a few industry trailblazers fought back. A slow evolution took place, modernizing an ancient system that at first required scores of workers to haul out various discrete cargo, but today requires only a single operator armed with a computer system and a crane.

Levinson provides all the details in between, discussing the companies and business leaders that transformed the industry from one step to the next. If you're looking for that level of detail, then the book is for you. If the topic interests you but you don't want that level of detail, then I highly recommend reading the first chapter (most of which appears to be available on Google Books), as it offers an excellent summary of the rest of the book.

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