The secret lives of lost shipping containers–and the lives they support


But what else travels in that wood? Where did that wood come from?

I got in a batch of baskets from China that had some kind of tiny bugs in them, eating the baskets. Burned them all in the driveway. I already have all the invasive species I can use.


The Omega Tau podcast has a terrific episode on the logistics of shipping containers and why they’re so cheap. Beyond just the obvious (floating heavy things is efficient), the shipping companies have ships with optimized hulls, special fuels, minute-by-minute scheduling, and hub setups. It’s like the airline industry but with boats.


Sometimes, these containers also run into Robert Redford’s boat.


These things are the modern equivalent of ancient Greek amphora. The only difference Is that I don’t think our descendants will be as excited when they run across these boxes due to the fact we’re going to leave them with far more junk than the ancient Greeks left us.


Ask, and ye shall receive.

The last sentence of the article linked below mentions the contents of the container. Ironically, it may or may not contain harmful contents, depending upon whether you believe NPR or BoingBoing.

Declares NPR:
“And containers carry everything, from toxic chemicals to ribbon. The Monterey Bay container appears to be safe, though — according to the shipping company, it’s full of radial tires.”

Boing Boing rebuts:
“But some objects do a better job of functioning as healthy artificial reefs than others. The aforementioned pile of tires, for instance, was a popular idea in the 1970s. Later, though, it turned out that sunken tires were leaching plastic compounds called PCBs into the water. Those compounds can cause cancer in animals, so the tire reefs, while attracting wildlife, were also, probably, killing some of that life over time.”


It took some doing, but I finally found an acceptable number for the amount of containers shipped worldwide in a year. That happens to be 99.8 million (for just the top 20 exporters). So if the number lost is 10,000, then the percentage lost is 0.01% (barely a blip at all).

Thanks to Maggie for a great find!


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