Ask the guy who works at a Container Port

Containers come in a variety of lengths, 20’*, basis for the TEU capacity cited for the ships, 40’, 45’, 48’ and finally 53’, all of them stackable. The last are strictly North America, AIUI, but are popular enough the railroads have well cars long enough to carry them.

With railroads, you don’t have more than two high so the variety of lengths don’t matter. In fact, with the shorter well cars you’ll often see a 40 footer or pair of 20s with a 45 or 53 on top. How is the variety of lengths handled on ships which stack way more than two high? The photos I’ve seen have all the ends lined up, at least above the hold.

*Actually 19’6"

I’m pretty sure they basically line up the lengths for every bay. Below deck, container ships have guides to keep the containers aligned, which won’t work if the container is the wrong size. Above deck, the ends have to line up for the lashing bars to be installed.

The lashing bars are steel bars installed diagonally to keep the containers from shifting. That’s in addition to the twist locks that join the corners of each container to the container below.

I followed a trucker on another site for several years, reading his stories. My impression was, theoretically, it was possible to earn a decent wage. That is, if absolutely everything works properly, and the employers are interested in looking out for the drivers’ best interests.

The problem is, it seems like almost every company out there is either indifferent to, or actively hostile to, the drivers’ best interests. It seemed like every week, decisions were being made that cut into his earnings, either making it impossible for him to earn money, or actually putting him on the hook for some expenses, rather than the company. If I were in charge of trying to get every trucker in America to quit their job, I’d have a hard time coming up with better ideas than just doing what the companies are already doing as standard operating procedures.

So now, several years further down the road, it’s all coming back to bite them in the ass. Now enough people have learned the truth of all the BS, and “no one wants to work any more.”

This fellow I followed started out as being pretty passionate about the idea of trucking, but over a few years, had that beaten out of him. I’d have to be on the edge of starvation before I’d ever think of trying to be a trucker these days.

I am peripherally involved. As I understand it, pre-covid containers were not rushed back to China. Right now, containers are rushed back empty, because customers are paying up to get their goods shipped from China to whereever. And without a container, the goods don’t ship. For example, if you are supplying something for the holiday season, containers have you by the short and curlies. You have to ship no matter the price or you have no business.

Pre-covid, containers were a cheap ass commodity. It didn’t make economic sense to ship them back to China empty because the charge/container was low. So containers sat around, waited to be sent to places that were sending things to China (including low value recycling), etc., so these wouldn’t ship back empty.

Ancedote. I know of a US company that makes a plastic resin, which is sent to a Chinese factory to add in color to order, and then is made into plastic case parts used in big brand name gaming consoles. This company suddenly found itself with 5 month lead time to get a container, therefore couldn’t ship the resin to China on time, and big brand name gaming consoles were out of stock.

Several container leasing companies went bust in the last couple of decades of the 20th century. When that happens and the management all walk away, it becomes impossible to track down all the millions of boxes, scattered all over the world.

In many cases, they may be held as a lien against unpaid storage charges, and eventually auctioned off to the highest bidder, or even just ‘acquired’ by a haulier.

Investors could lose more than $4 billion after the bankruptcy of shipping container leasing firm P&R. To make matters worse, prosecutors are now investigating how the company “mislaid” a million of its storage units.
All at sea: How did shipping firm P&R lose a million containers?