Little Bits of History

Shipping Made Easier

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 26, 2015
Type of ship converted to SS Ideal X

Type of ship converted to SS Ideal X

April 26, 1956: The SS Ideal X leaves Port Newark, New Jersey. The ship, prior to refitting, was a T2 oil tanker during World War II. The ships were of some concern because they split in two during cold weather. Although initially blamed on poor welding/construction techniques, it was determined that the issue was the high sulfur content of war time steel. This caused the metal to become brittle at lower temperatures. The Marinship Corporation built Potrero Hills in 1945 as a T2 tanker, the ship was later purchased by Malcom McLean’s Pan-Atlantic Steamship Company. She was rebuilt as a container ship at Bethlehem Steel, Baltimore, Maryland. She was the first successful container ship.

Refitted in 1955, she was rechristened Ideal X and left on her maiden voyage on this date carrying 58 containers to Port of Houston, Texas. There were 58 trucks there awaiting her arrival. The Clifford J. Rodgers operated by the White Pass and Yukon Route was an earlier container ship which sailed the year before, but was not a commercial success. Ideal X was purchased in 1959 by Bulgarians who rechristened her Elemir. During heavy weather on February 8, 1964, she suffered extensive damage and was then sold to Japanese breakers and she was scrapped on October 20, 1964 in Hirao, Japan.

Container ships are cargo ships carrying their goods in truck-size intermodal containers. Today, most seagoing non-bulk cargo is shipped in this manner. They carry a mix of 20-foot (TEU) and 40-foot (2 TEU) ISO-standard containers, with the larger ones being predominant. Bulk cargo, such as coal or grain are still transported unpackaged in the hull of the ship. Break-bulk cargo is transported in packages. Prior to this shipping innovation, these items were loaded, tied down, transported, then released and removed from the ships one piece at a time. With this innovation, cargo can be grouped into containers of 1,000 to 3,000 cubic feet and weigh as much as 64,000 pounds. This can be moved on or off the ship all at once. When loading, each container is secured to the ship once in a standardized way.

This has made transportation far more efficient and reduced shipping time by 84% with a cost reduction of 35%. There are seven major sizes of container ships ranging from small feeder to ultra-large. There are over 160 Very Large Container Ships in use today with each able to move more than 10,000 TEU. There are 51 ports which can handle these large ships. The size of a panamax ship is limited by the Panama canal’s lock chambers which can handle a ship of up to 106 feet at the beam and 965 feet long with a draft of 39.5 feet. The Panama expansion project is causing the naming conventions to be modified. Ultra Large Container Vessels are over 1,200 feet long and wider than 160.7 feet at the beam with a draft greater than 50 feet. They carry 14,501 TEU and higher. For comparison, Ideal X was 524 feet long and 30 feet at the beam. Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller is the largest ship today and is 1,312 feet long and 194 feet at the beam with a 52 foot draft and carrying capacity of 18,340 TEU.

There are few industries as defiantly opaque as shipping. Even offshore bankers have not developed a system as intricately elusive as the flag of convenience, under which ships can fly the flag of a state that has nothing to do with its owner, cargo, crew, or route. – Rose George

I will continue to push for doubling the strength of the U.S. Border Patrol, and to make sure that every cargo container that enters this nation is screened for radiation and potential weapons of mass destruction. – Nick Lampson

Seven million ship cargo containers come into the United States every year. Five to seven percent only are inspected – five to seven percent. – Irwin Redlener

A boatload of government money is indeed a gift. Unless, I suppose, you’re one of the saps paying for the cargo. – David Harsanyi

Also on this day: Chernobyl – In 1986, there is a nuclear disaster in the Chernobyl power plant.
John Wilkes Booth – In 1865, the actor was found and killed.
Tanzania – In 1964, Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged.
Police – In 1933, the Gestapo was formed.
Fenway’s First – In 1912, the first home run was hit in the new Fenway Park.

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