What Did The BBC Box Teach The World About Shipping?

Every single day, an unfathomable amount of equipment is at some point in the shipping process around the world, either being loaded onto a vessel, travelling through some of the busiest trade routes in the world or being unloaded.

For a year between September 2008 and October 2009, one piece of equipment was the BBC Box, a red shipping container with the BBC News logo emblazoned on it and a GPS unit to track its journey around the world and what cargo is loaded and unloaded into it.

Starting by delivering whisky from Paisley to Shanghai via Belfast, Southampton and Singapore, The Box then carried products for the Big Lots chain of stores in the United States including gardening implements, cosmetics and tape measures.

The big lesson is just how versatile a container is, with a wide range of products being carried via the big red box, from products to industrial supplies.

Next, it carried polyester fibre, additives, ink and spearmint from New York to Brazil, car parts and monosodium glutamate (MSG) to Yokohama Japan via the Cape of Good Hope, Singapore and Hong Kong.

However, after landing in Yokohama, the effects of the Great Recession started to affect the shipping industry and the Box lay in the Japanese port for three months before it was filled with a range of different consolidated cargo and headed to Thailand.

Finally, carrying over 95,000 tins of cat food it left the port of Laem Chabang and travelled back to Southampton, where it would be unloaded, take a brief tour around schools as an educational exhibit before being donated by owner Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK Line) to be used as a permanent soup kitchen in Africa.

It highlighted the vital importance of freight, given the interdependence of nations to import anything it cannot create itself, and what can happen when this system is disrupted.

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