Container ships are the pack mules of global trade, and journalist Rose George’s new book, Ninety Percent of Everything, is the latest look at how the steel boxes full of solids, liquids, and gases get to where they’re going. One huge challenge, George says, is simply loading and unloading these giant ships, a task that calls on physics, chemistry, and a knowledge of pirate tactics.
1 // Minimize the number of crane moves. Algorithms and computer systems help plan the most efficient and practical storage schemes so ships can get in and out of port fast.
2 // Cold boxes need juice. Refrigerated containers—or “reefers”—must be placed near a power source.
3 // Guard your vessel. Containers on ships are sealed after inspection, but thieves can use simple tools to get around the seals and pop open the doors.
4 // Heaviest boxes go down low. This prevents the stack from collapsing. And they’re distributed as evenly as possible to keep the ship balanced.
5 // Place flammable stuff away from the edges. If a ship will be traveling through, say, the Indian Ocean, containers of combustible material could be ignited by rocket-propelled grenades from attacking pirates.
6 // Every container for shipping has an ID number. It shows the containers owner (green) and category (yellow) of the container ship, followed by a serial number (blue) and check digit (red). Once they’re loaded, a separate system locates each container by bay, row, and tier.
7 // Keep certain chemicals apart. Acetylene must be separated by at least one container space or bulkhead for shipping.
That”s how shipping companies move their cargo !