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The Man Who Invented the Modern Shipping Container

22nd September 2011

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Keith Tantlinger recently passed away at the age of 92. Most people have never heard of him, but his contribution to containerization played a pivotal role in globalization. Almost sixty years ago, he developed the early technology that made modern container shipping possible. The corner locking mechanisms and other refinements made the stacking and transferring of containers not only feasible but also economical. Here is an excerpt about Keith Tantingler from Box Boats: How Container Ships Changed the World by Brian J. Cudahy:

 

Although the spar decks installed on McLean’s T-2 tankers did not permit containers to be stacked one atop another, the new thirty-three-foot units were designed with sufficient strength to permit stacking. Keith Tantlinger, who was then with the Brown Trailer Corporation, tells how his company delivered two prototype containers to the Bethlehem Steel shipyard outside Baltimore in the summer of 1955, where Ideal X and Almena were being adapted for container service. Tantlinger expected to meet Malcom McLean and other Pan-Atlantic officials for breakfast in a downtown Baltimore hotel the next morning and then drive out to the yard to inspect the two new units.

Tantlinger reached the coffee shop in ample time, but upon learning that the Pan-Atlantic people had already left for the yard, he caught a taxi and followed them. When he got there, he had to forgo the detailed presentation he planned to make about the design of the new containers, since McLean and his people were jumping up and down on top of the prototype units to test its strength and durability.

A year later, the Pan-Atlantic fleet had expanded, and McLean was able to load containers in stacks in the holds of his converted C-2s thanks to their unique and patented corner castings, even carry additional containers as deck cargo atop the hatch covers since the corner castings, even carry additional containers as deck cargo atop the hatch covers since the corner castings could be linked together with twist locks.

To read more about Box Boats: How Container Ships Changed the World

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