Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Surplus Cargo Containers

Another small indication that America is on the path to becoming a third world country is shipping containers. Sounds odd doesn't it but shipping of goods in and out of the country is an indicator as to if you are a world power or a third world country. In this case we import more than we export - no news there. It is not just that we export less (we could really export quite a bit more) but it is the type of goods we import and export.

First, the quantity of imports versus exports. America imports finished goods. It seems to have given up on manufacturing it's own goods. The finished goods come in to the United States on container ships. A container ship may bring in 3,000 shipping containers (those 40ft by 10ft steel boxes)of finished goods such as TV's, Camcorders, Computers etc. After it has unloaded and is reloaded with the material America is exporting. It can only load about 800 containers because what America exports is containers of raw material that weights more then a container of electronic items. So the ship meets it's weight limit at only 800 containers instead of 3,000. We end up with 2,200 containers sitting in the ship yard with no ship to take them. Yes, we could fill those containers as there is a demand for the food and scrap we produce, but there is no ship that will come in empty to pickup the containers.

Second, the type of goods we export. Food products, grain, rags, paper, scrap plastic, scrap metal, lumber, things that a third world country with no manufacturing capability would export.

Third, The cheapest form of transportation for exports is shipping. America no longer has a national merchant marine fleet, and is nearly 100% dependent on foreign owned and flagged vessels for all container and most bulk ocean shipping. A deep ocean merchant marine fleet is an essential component of domestic national interest and a necessity for successful economic policy.

So what to do with all those left over shipping containers? One web site I visit is Weburbanist and they show ways that the containers can be used for houses. Yes, much the like the homeless person sleeping in a cardboard box, America can now use these left over containers to live in. Now I am not impressed with the houses built out of them. After all the containers are only ten foot wide, uninsulated and quite noisy. After you have added insulation, wiring and plumbing you must be left with a width of about 9 ft. Some examples are here and here and here. Now there are some design concepts that will drive the Delmar Planning and Zoning Commission up the wall.

At least one place has tried them for Student Housing

I was impressed with the shopping mall;


In other parts of the world, places like Odessa, Ukraine already have the the biggest shopping mall in all of Europe which uses stacked shipping containers to form alleys throughout the 170 acre site. In Asia, the Dordoy Bazaar in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan is almost entirely composed of empty shipping containers stacked two high and chock-full of inexpensive trinkets and toys. So, in other words, shipping container architecture is nothing new, but it is new when it comes to residential and office applications. I can see this would be good for flea markets and such.

Other suggestions made for the use of them are;
1. Construction Mobile field offices, storage of building materials, tool and machine shops.
2. Freight forwarding - One way, cargo worthy containers for one or multiple trips and large project movements
3. Manufacturing - Storage of raw materials and finished products, welding shops and generator rooms
4. Municipalities and Schools - Dry storage of grounds equipment, sports equipment, surplus supplies,hazardous chemicals and paints
5. Environmental Protection - Storage of hazardous wastes, i.e. asbestos, lead paint, and PCB's
6. Farming - Shelters for livestock, storage equipment surplus items such as feed or produce
7. Industrial - Storage and Transport of industrial materials
8. Utilities - Storage, modified field offices, tool rooms, works shops

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