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Box Boats: How Container Ships Changed the World [Paperback]

Brian J. Cudahy
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 17, 2007 0823225690 978-0823225699 0
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.

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Editorial Reviews


. . . Those who have a particular interest in shipping with find [this book] fascinating. Recommended.

Written by a transportation expert, who knows how to bring his reader aboard, conduct a tour, and finally discharge all passengers safely, somewhere between history and nostalgia. Box Boats with continue to expand. This book, which goes into deep detail on every aspect of the business, needs to be handy to all who live in this country. -Ray B. Browne

About the Author

BRIAN J. CUDAHY's books include Around Manhattan Island: And Other Maritime Tales of New York and A Century of Subways: Celebrating 100 Years of New York's Underground Railways (both Fordham). He lives in Bluffton, SC.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Fordham University Press (December 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823225690
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823225699
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.3 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #569,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Brian Cudahy was born in Brooklyn, New York, and it was there that he developed a life-long fascination with subway trains. His first professional career was as a professor of philosophy, and he held positions on the faculoty of both Niagara University and Boston College. Cudahy left the academic world in the mid-1970s and spent the rest of his career working in the field of mass transportation, first with Boston's MBTA, then with the RTA in Chicago, and finally with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

He has published widely in two areas of transportation ... urban mass transit and maritime history. When Fordham University Press celebrated its centennial in 2007, Cudahy's history of the New York subways, "Under the Sidewalks of New York," was cited as one of the Press' ten best sellers during its first hundred years.

Brian Cudahy retired in 1999 and currently lives near Hilton Head, South Carolina. Watch out, though! One of these days, readers may be able to get an inside look at urban mass transit in America through Cudahy's first work of fiction, a book that will bear the title "Foggarty's Heart Attack."

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Story of the Development of a New Industry June 10, 2006
Like a lot of other significant advances in technology modern dry cargo carriage was really put together by one man, Malcom McLean. Fifty years ago McLean, the president of McLean Trucking came up with the idea of taking trailers directly on board ships for transport to a port near their final destination. To minimize the space requirements, he had a special trailer developed that would carry a standardized trailer body. The idea of the container was born.

The first shipment in the spring of 1956 used a converted ship that could carry fifty eight trailer bodies. The idea was successful beyond the wildest dreams. The concept of a trailer body being loaded anywhere in the world, trucked to a port, transported by ship to another port, and then trucked to its final destination has literally changed the way business is done. It is largely responsible for the way today's world of manufacture being anywhere in the world and still supplying the world's markets.

This book is about half a biography of McLean, and his life. But his life largely paralleled that of the container business. The other half tells the story of the rest of the industry.

Malcom Mclean is little known outside the shipping industry. But his creation of the way the world now ships products deserves to be better known. He is one of the titans of industry.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating, detailed account July 24, 2006
BOX BOATS: HOW CONTAINER SHIPS CHANGED THE WORLD tells how the first container ship in 1956 changed the entire shipping industry, introducing a concept and transportation idea which would revolutionize the costs of shipping goods. From the Pan-Atlantic's owner who first thought about loading his trucks on board to his evolving line which grew into a giant container service, Cudahy charts not just the evolution of one company, but its impact on and changes within the world shipping and steamship industries as a whole. A fascinating, detailed account.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good historical overview of container ships June 26, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of ships or the history of transportation and logistics. I think that audience will find this book very interesting. The subtitle of the book is a bit misleading in that the author does not examine in any depth how containerization helped shape the global economy of today. Read Marc Levinson's "The Box", which gives a little bit better analysis of how containers changed the transportation industry and the global economy. Regardless, it wasn't container ships that wrought a transportation revolution, it was the containers themselves. The main title of the book though is "Box Boats" and in that regard, Cudahy has written a fine history of container ships, the container ship industry and how the design of cargo ships has changed to meet the demands of the container revolution. I found the story of the Sea-Land SL-7s particularly interesting, I was not aware of this history of the Navy's Fast Sealift Ships.

The entire first half of the book focuses on the Malcolm McLean and the corporation he founded, Sea-Land. I don't see how that can be avoided in a book about containers or container ships. McLean was the visionary that started container revolution in 1956 and Sea-Land dominated the container shipping business through the 1960's and 1970's, although several other giant shipping lines eventually caught up and even surpassed them. Cudahy goes on in the second half of the book tracing how the international shipping industry transformed itself through the 80's and 90's and then what its future holds. All in all a quick read, only 256 pages, with plenty of interesting footnotes to supplement the story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How The Goods Get Delivered... May 28, 2008
As a merchant mariner and retired USN Operations Specialist I have spent nearly thirty years sailing the world's oceans and observing the ubiquitous container ships on every sea lane and in every port. This book has given me a new appreciation for these giant cargo vessels and their vital role in global commerce. Not a scholarly treatise but a readable, comprehensive look at the history of importance of container shipping. Highly recommended!
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