Weird and Wonderful Things Carried in Shipping Containers
Container ships have revolutionised the world of cargo. Where once moving goods by sea cost around 25% of their final retail value, container ships have brought the cost down to as little as 2.5 cents per unit for a 5,000 mile journey across the ocean. The trade off is that where once cargo was visible and obvious, no-one usually finds out what’s aboard unless there’s some sort of incident or accident. In this blog we take a look at some unique items that have been transported in shipping containers and on the containers ships themselves.
Where 99% of the time container ships carry 20ft and 40ft boxes, they can also carry yachts. In 2014 the Team Vestas Volvo Ocean Race yacht’s navigator didn’t check his charts properly one night and went to bed, but was woken up suddenly when the boat hit a reef in the Indian Ocean at 20 knots. Thankfully no-one was hurt, though the team’s on board journalist was on the toilet when it happened and was knocked unconscious before waking up, grabbing his cameras and filming the whole incident until they were rescued a week later.
The sponsors made the decision that the yacht should finish the race in some form, so had the Maersk container shipping line pick the boat up from the atoll and deliver it to Italy where it was rebuilt and finished the last leg of the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race. There was one crew change – the navigator…
Watching the Sydney Hobart Race every year you will see the maxis going for Line Honours. Where Wild Oats XI is based in Australia, some of these maxis do a lot more than one race a year. For a few years the 100ft carbon all out racing machine Comanche circuited the world going for line honours at major yachting regattas on the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Despite her size there is no room for home comforts aboard, with weight saving core to the philosophy of the yacht.
Not many people would want to sail her from the Caribbean to Sydney on a delivery, and anyway this is fraught with risk, so during her brief career she was packed up on container ships and moved between venues around the world. Even with the re-rigging and packing / unpacking this was seen as a more effective way to get her to her next race.
Muse is a band of three men from rural South West England who despite being pretty much half the size of a typical rock band can drown out a jumbo jet with their louder numbers. Their mix of powerful anthems such as Knights of Cydonia and Psycho as well as beautiful ballads such as Sing for Absolution has generated a fan-base of millions around the world.
Muse’s tour set is designed to give the audience an almost psychedelic experience from the huge sound, stage and light displays. Their style harks back to the 1960’s yet embraces modernity to the point that while older men with beards are drawn to them, they also appeal to people from right across the spectrum. Muse fans are as eclectic as this tiny three piece group’s music.
In order to create this fantastic experience, Muse have to move their gear around the world in 25, 40ft shipping containers. Quite a lot of space for three people… Stage Manager Paul English describes the logistics involved: “Just to unload this show takes several hours from the 25 trucks we have on this UK tour. But now we have load-in and -out down to a fine art… We start our day at 3am with our riggers marking out the venue and after an hour they start tipping some of the trucks and begin rigging. After an hour, myself and my assistant David Hall come in and the rest of the trucks are unloaded.” Muse considered moving it all by air freight but this would have taken a large number of Boeing 747 freighters, and a huge final additional cost.
Containers have made such movements around the world possible. The modular nature of the concept means that the sound stage, the music stage and so forth have to be built in a certain way in order to fit inside the containers but the outcome is that they can be moved around the world relatively quickly.
Ultimately, it also means that the set can be moved by road, rail and sea to the various destinations around the world with relative ease. Rock stage riggers’ days are long (and they are known to use all sorts of substances to make this possible) but in theory at least the band could shift between two cities in a week due to the resultant design and build of the equipment. On the European leg of the Drones tour the 25 trucks went by road as far east as Moscow and as far west as the UK, 3,000 miles apart.
Around 21,000 people would attend the show at the O2 arena in London, the largest ever crowd for a single band at the music venue in question. They had a hell of an experience with huge helium filled Drones flying over their heads, lighting and screens to add to the atmosphere and sound that could drown out a space rocket launching 20 metres away. Shipping containers made this all possible and to be packed up for the next venue in just a day or two.
Muse are possibly the most theatrical band on the circuit today but they follow Pink Floyd and Queen as bands that needed a fair bit of baggage beyond their guitars and organs to shift around the globe. In order to give a sensory experience of this magnitude, you need a fair bit of kit!
Rubber ducks are mapping the world’s currents
The world’s oceans and currents are still very much a mystery, but one man’s junk is another’s gold, as some say – and so it has been for oceanographer Curt Ebbesmeyer. In January 1992, 29,000 yellow plastic ducks, blue turtles and green frogs escaped their metal prison at sea on the Pacific. These would help map the currents of the Pacific Ocean.
Writing on the website beachcomberslalert.org, Ebbesmeyer recounted, “After the tub toys first arrived in Sitka, flocks headed west along coastal Alaska and the Aleutian Islands where — 3,500 miles from the spill — hundreds invaded Shemya, as reported by Chrystle White. Many continued on westward to Kamchatka, Japan, then redoubled the Pacific back to Sitka completing the 6,800 mile loop around the Pacific Ocean’s northernmost gyre, the North Pacific Subpolar Gyre”.
While the bulk of the flock went on a journey around the Pacific, some bath toys were more adventurous. Ebbesmeyer said, “the currents transported a number through Bering Strait into the Arctic Ocean, where the pack ice conveyed them onward over the North Pole into the North Atlantic Ocean. Bethe Hagens observed a duck in Maine (July 2003); and Sonali Naik observed a frog in Scotland (August 2003).”
Before the ducks went on their swim around the world, Ebbesmeyer heard of 61,000 Nike trainers that had broken loose in the Pacific in 1990 headed from South Korea to the United States. Each trainer had a serial number so while they went on their journey around the Pacific they could be identified from the shipment, and also tracked on their journey. This made it the ‘largest instantaneous release of numbered objects at the same time’. Essentially if a scientist was going to do something like this to map the world’s oceans they would label the objects with serial numbers to be sure of the finds. This was accidental science at its best! People are still finding the trainers in question around the same Gyre some 27 years later.
Dinosaurs that travel the world
Unseen by people until they appear at their destination, there are all sorts of cool things you can fit in a steel box. There’s an exhibition of dinosaurs that travels the world, being packed in shipping containers at the end of a ‘tour date’ and being shipped off by road, rail and sea to its next home.
Fourteen life size animatronic dinosaurs are on a world tour. When assembled they appear to be as scientists and young children imagine dinosaurs to be. Though they won’t eat visitors (as they may have done should someone meet a real one) they move around in much the same way as their fossilised bone anatomy suggests they might.
The world tour began in the United States and was transported by road and rail between tour dates. They were unpacked and rebuilt at each new spot and then spent time awing adults and scaring young children before being packed away. The tour then headed for Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland, a journey of several thousand miles by land and sea. They are currently on a hill in the Scottish zoo.
The multimodal nature of shipping containers means that shipping them almost anywhere in the world is possible. You just need reasonable access to the location for a truck that can tow a 40ft trailer, a reasonably close shipping container port, and of course, time. The UK is an island with some of the largest container ports in Europe so getting the shipping containers to a nearby port is relatively easy.
Want to read more about shipping containers?
The Gateway Gazette has lots of interesting articles on shipping containers, and if you get inspired to start your own shipping container project Gateway are the people to talk to. With hundreds of new and used shipping containers for sale or hire in a range of sizes, we can help you choose your ideal container for what you have in mind. Give our container solutions experts a call or get a free quote.