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Box Boats

How Container Ships Changed the World

Brian Cudahy

Publication Year: 2006

Fifty years ago-on April 26, 1956-the freighter Ideal X steamed from Berth 26 in Port Newark, New Jersey. Flying the flag of the Pan-Atlantic Steamship Company, she set out for Houston with an unusual cargo: 58 trailer trucks lashed to her top deck.But they weren't trucks-they were steel containers removed from their running gear, waiting to be lifted onto empty truck beds when Ideal X reached Texas. She docked safely, and a revolution was launched-not only in shipping, but in the way the world trades. Today, the more than 200 million containers shipped every year are the lifeblood of the new global economy. They sit stacked on thousands of box boatsthat grow more massive every year. In this fascinating book, transportation expert Brian Cudahy provides a vivid, fast-paced account of the container-ship revolution-from the maiden voyage of the Ideal X to the entrepreneurial vision and technological breakthroughs that make it possible to ship more goods more cheaply than every before.Cudahy tells this complex story easily, starting with Malcom McLean, Pan-Atlantic's owner who first thought about loading his trucks on board. His line grew into the container giant Sea-Land Services, and Cudahy chartsits dramatic evolution into Maersk Sealand, the largest container line in the world. Along the way, he provides a concise, colorful history of world shipping-from freighter types to the fortunes of steamship lines-and explores the spectacular growth of global trade fueled by the mammoth ships and new seaborne lifelines connecting Asia, Europe, and the Americas.Masterful maritime history, Box Boats shows how fleets of these ungainly ships make the modern world possible-with both positive and negative effects. It's also a tale of an historic home port, New York, where old piers lie silent while 40-foot steel boxes of toys and televisions come ashore by the thousands, across the bay in New Jersey.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Box Boats

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pp. i


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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

Two people deserve special mention for assistance ‘‘above and beyond’’: Captain Warren Leback, a man whose professional career involves a lengthy tenure as an important executive at Sea-Land, as well as a term as administrator of...

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pp. ix-xii

The weather in New York was hardly auspicious on Thursday, April 26, 1956. A cold rain fell on and off throughout the day, and the afternoon temperature never got beyond the mid-forties. While a crowd of 15,866 fans ignored the...

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Chapter 1: Cargo Ships, American Style

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pp. 1-12

Oceangoing cargo ships have never rivaled passenger liners— or, for that matter, sailing ships, naval vessels, or paddlewheel steamboats—as objects of general interest and curiosity. The famous Liberty ships of World War II may...

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Chapter 2: The Pan-Atlantic Steamship Company

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pp. 13-41

A corporation founded in the Great Depression year of 1933, called the Pan-Atlantic Steamship Company, can hardly lay claim to the kind of long and colorful maritime heritage that one associates with the likes of, say, Cunard...

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Chapter 3: From the Hudson River to Newark Bay

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pp. 42-67

When one thinks of New York Harbor, the image that often comes to mind is that of an inbound passenger liner proceeding slowly through the Narrows, past the Statue of Liberty, and finally ending its voyage at a pier along the...

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Chapter 4: Sea-Land

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pp. 68-98

If Malcom McLean’s Pan-Atlantic Steamship Company pioneered container-ship operations with the April 26, 1956, voyage of Ideal X from Port Newark to Houston, the idea of carrying detachable highway trailers aboard oceangoing...

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Chapter 5: Sea-Land Approaches Maturity (photos follow)

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pp. 99-144

Sea-Land continued to be the pacesetter in the growing container-ship industry for the rest of the 1960s, throughout the 1970s, and on into the 1980s. Malcom McLean’s company thus found itself continually in need of additional...

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Chapter 6: From RJR to CSX (photos follow)

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pp. 145-186

After the new SL-7s entered Sea-Land service in late 1972, Malcom McLean scaled back his involvement in the day-today operations of the company. McLean continued to retain substantial portions of the R. J. Reynolds stock he had...

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Chapter 7: After 1999 Horizon, Maersk-Sealand, and Beyond

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pp. 187-205

In January 1999, the CSX Corporation issued a seemingly routine announcement. It was splitting its Sea-Land subsidiary into three separate divisions. The international liner business would be one unit, and a separate division would...

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Chapter 8: Three Other Companies

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pp. 206-230

The shape and size of the current world container-ship fleet incorporates dimensions that few could possibly have predicted— or even imagined—on a rainy Thursday afternoon in April 1956 when Ideal X set sail for Houston from Port...

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Chapter 9: The Present--And the Future

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pp. 231-251

In the preceding chapters, I have attempted to tell the story of the first half-century of the container-ship industry by focusing on the rise and fall, after a fashion, of Sea- Land Service, with some incidental treatment of other...

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pp. 252-254

The full story of the logistical effort behind the invasion of Iraq by Allied forces in the spring of 2003 will likely not be known in full for many years; perhaps all the details will never be known. One important fact at the conclusion of...

Appendix A: Vessel Roster

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pp. 255-282

Appendix B: Sea-Land Liner Services, 1999

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pp. 283-289

Appendix C: Maritime Activity at the Port of New York, Thursday, April 26, 1956

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pp. 290-294


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pp. 295-318


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pp. 319

General Index

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pp. 321-333

Vessel Index

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pp. 335-338

E-ISBN-13: 9780823247516
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823225682
Print-ISBN-10: 0823225682

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2006