Liberty awaits, as my hand reaches down to the black sun-beaten asphalt to snatch the copper piece of metal. The exterior of the penny shows dents and dark smudges, aging the penny far beyond 45 years. From the perspective of Abraham Lincoln, he started out as a flat sheet of metal and was formed into pocket change worth one cent. The design for the first one-cent coin was a suggestion nominated by Benjamin Franklin. The original coin was five times heavier and almost 50% larger than the penny that we now have today. The word “penny” is termed for the U.S. coin based off of the original British coin also called a penny. The first one-cent coin was created in 1787 by a private mint. The penny was made legal to use by the Coinage Act of 1864. In 1909, Abraham Lincoln was portrayed on the penny to acknowledge his 100th birthday. After Abraham Lincoln had been created, he was then sent out to be in the hands of thousands. Between each exchange, he was dropped, tossed, stashed, and lost, each time gaining more dirt in his cracks and getting more worn out on his head and tail. It was a long journey to the bumpy spot on the road for the copper beauty until I discovered the coin itself. A package is a lot like a penny. Although different in size, both the penny and package are handled back and forth with the same old routine. They are both a small detail yet an important necessity needed to run a smooth transition, but the history and process behind them can only be known by the objects themselves.
Container shipping moved 95% of all manufactured goods around the world in 2017. More than four trillion dollars worth of products were sent over the oceans. It's an industry that underpins the global economy, but it wasn't always as big or as efficient as it is today.
The idea of shipping started in the 3rd century BC when merchants realized that sending products overseas was cheaper and faster than by land. Early on, goods were loaded onto ships in sacks, barrels, and wooden crates, with scores of dock workers squeezing them on decks or in tight spaces below. Ships often spent more time at ports than sailing and not much changed until 1956. That's when American truck driver, Malcolm McClain, stacked 58 metal boxes on ships going from New Jersey to Houston. This idea completely revolutionized the industry.
The container had not only protected the products but when the ships docked at ports, truck beds and freight trains could take them away without repackaging. A flurry of innovation followed and container sizes were standardized. In 1966, Moore-McCormack lines started the first transatlantic container service, and then in 1968, one of the first modern container ships hit the water. The Japanese carried 752 20 foot containers, using a standard still used today. Cargo could now be moved from purpose-built vessels to rails and roads in massive volume cutting transport cost by at least 75%. This led to the emergence of global shipping behemoths like Denmark's Maersk lines, Francis CMA CGM, and China's Costco.
By the 1980s around 90% of manufactured goods were containerized, from designer dresses and home goods to electronics and heavy machinery. Globalization exploded as ships moved Asian goods to the west and vice versa, making stops at dozens of ports along the way. Recently the Panama and Suez canals were expanded, allowing for bigger ships to cross and in greater numbers. But??it's not all been smooth sailing.
The industry has been plagued by too many ships in the water, sparking a series of price wars that plunged many operators deep into the red and completely sank others. This caused a wave of consolidation seeing the top 20 ocean carriers shrink to 11, a number that's expected to get even smaller. Shipping has also had its criticism from governments and environmentalists who say that it's responsible for around a quarter of the world's nitrogen oxide pollution. In response, operators are adopting cleaner fuels like natural gas.
Today the industry continues to boom. Container ships are as high as the Empire State building if turned upright and can move more than 20,000 boxes each. A single container can hold 10,000 iPads at a cost of $0.05 each from Shanghai to Hamburg. The average TV coming to the US from China cost less than $2 to ship. The most recent growth has been in refrigerated shipping. Fresh produce, food, and flowers, that once only moved by plane, are now shipped on satellite tracked refrigerated boxes that keep them fresh. Bananas can last in these for up to 50 days.
So, what does the future hold? Likely, massive crewless ships running on batteries that can move 50,000 containers and global cargo distributed through blockchain technology that will eliminate paperwork and further cut costs. Later this year, the first so-called “Tesla of the sea”, also known as Yara Birkeland, will hit the water in a Norwegian fjord moving fertilizer from a production site to an export port. The ship will replace thousands of truck routes through populated areas.
Technology is increasing rapidly in the shipping industry. As for how the industry will form itself; however, no matter what happens in the future, whether it be unmanned electric ships or low cost environmentally saving products, shipping and packaging will always be essential to the American life. The penny is undervalued, often times being ignored, but it is the foundation of wealth and worth in American society. Just like the penny, the process of shipping and packaging often goes undervalued, but how many jobs it potentially creates, and no matter how much technology grows, packaging will always be an unchanging element of the U.S. economy. It just goes to show that although it may lurk in the shadows of the many unnoticeable events happening in society, shipping and packaging will always be an overlooked key to a smooth existence.