What else can be done with the greatest innovation of all time?

There is always a lot of talk within the logistics industry as to whether air freight or sea freight is more popular, which is growing, which companies have been best able to anticipate these changes and so on. (See Ti’s free, monthly Stifel Logistics Confidence Index reports for more commentary and analysis on this topic).

The question of what to do with ships which aren’t being filled to capacity is one which shipping companies constantly having to assess. However, I’m more interested in what companies do with the empty shipping containers once they’ve come to the end of their original use? With approximately 17 million shipping containers in existence there are a large percentage now not being used for their original purpose.

They are however, still very useful in other ways. After all, you may remember Ti’s past shipping container appreciation piece- Nick Bailey’s post on the greatest innovation of all time? (SPOILER ALERT: It’s not the Internet, the light bulb or the written word).

Recently, I came across an article about a proposed ‘Jenga-style’ hotel which would be built using old shipping containers. The main thrust of the article was more about the style of the hotel and less about the re-purposing of these old containers and although it remains nothing but a sketch in the office of the architect at the moment, it got me thinking as to what else these containers are being used for.

The most obvious and most popular use for these containers would appear to be housing. Whether it is creating cheap and trendy student housing in massively populated cities or emergency housing for disaster zones, the shipping container has found a second life in many instances (a quick online search will show just how many of these structures already exist). Given that these containers are well sized, easy to move and uniform to fit for furniture it’s easy to see why this secondary use is rapidly growing in popularity all over the world.

Photo source: Ottawa Citizen

Photo source: Ottawa Citizen

Once you move away from the obvious housing idea it all gets predictably a bit hipster. From trendy pop-up restaurants and art galleries in cities across the globe to props destined destruction in the next blockbuster film, these uniform boxes are being used a hundred different ways by people every day.

So, what would you use your very own empty shipping container for? Why not tweet your answers to us here at Ti @transportintell using the hashtag #myshippingcontainer.

To find out about shipping containers being used for their original purpose or for the latest logistics industry news in general sign up to Ti’s free Logistics Briefing service.


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