The Role of Shipping Containers
in International Trade

Global economies are intricately connected in the modern age. Everything you buy reaches your market’s shelves through a complex supply chain that goes through different countries. Without international trade between countries, more than half of the goods in your markets would disappear.

The Role of Shipping Containers in International Trade
Photo by Paul Teysen on Unsplash

However, transporting goods from two countries miles apart is a challenging feat. There are vast stretches of both land and sea separating them, a challenge that humans have solved through the invention of shipping containers. Without shipping containers, the supply chain would fall apart and the international economy would look very different. Read on to understand the interestingly critical role shipping containers play in international trade.

Revolutionizing Trade Logistics

Before shipping containers were commonplace, cargo was loaded and unloaded piece by piece. This practice was known as break-bulk shipping and was highly labor-intensive, time-consuming, risky for fragile goods, and limited intermodal connectivity. There was also no consistency in goods packaging, making it difficult to optimize space on ships.

Containerization of cargo solved most of these problems, transforming trade logistics. Containers are easy to load and unload, and make it possible to optimize space on ships as they are all of standard sizes. They are also designed to seamlessly transition between different modes of transport, allowing long-distance transport and promoting intermodal compatibility.

Consequently, businesses seeking shipping containers for hire internationally allowed for a boom in international trade and optimization of the supply chain. They have played a vital role in facilitating globalization by making it easier for businesses to reach markets worldwide.


Shipping containers save costs for businesses and in return, promote international trade. As they are standardized, they eliminate the need for customizing handling equipment for different types of cargo, saving costs. The ability of containers to move seamlessly across various transportation modes minimizes delays and enhances overall supply chain efficiency.

Standardized containers also cut costs through economies of scale. As they allow for efficient stacking and packing of cargo on ships, they maximize the use of space and in turn allow higher cargo volumes to be transported in a single voyage. They also allow for predictable scheduling and reduced transit times, reducing operational delays, making operations more secure, and leading to reduced pilferage and damage.

Cargo Tracking

If you order a product from Amazon, they let you know how many days your product will be developed and you can track your parcel to ensure it is on track. If you don’t receive your package, the relevant employees can track your order and determine what happened. But it was impossible to know the status or fate of your product before shipping containers.

Many shipping containers have RFID tags. They enhance container visibility by providing real-time information on the cargo’s location, status, and condition. Similarly, many shipping cargos are GPS-enabled allowing them to share their location through satellite signals. GPS tracking allows not only tracking but also contributes to decisions about logistics management, route optimization, and timely delivery.


The modern economy is a sum total of different processes that happen in different countries, linked together by shipping containers. Without shipping containers, there will be no supply chain and no international trade. They help promote international trade in several ways. They can seamlessly be used on both roads and at sea, expanding intermodal connectivity. As they are standardized, they take up less space on ships and reduce operational delays, reducing costs for businesses. They also make parcel tracking possible. The next time your Amazon parcel gets delivered on time, thank the shipping containers.