American seaports from Portland, Maine to Corpus Christi, Texas have been tied up since October 2nd in a strike which emphasizes the classic struggle between man and invention.
American seaports from Portland, Maine to Corpus Christi, Texas have been tied up since October 2nd in a strike which emphasizes the classic struggle between man and invention. And man, the International Longshoremen's Association, is making a last-ditch fight against invention,which in this case is merely a box! The box is a container...aluminium, steel or wood, and because it does a better job, it is putting him out of work.
A mere 20 years ago an enterprising American shipping company developed the idea of putting cargo in huge containers...from 20 to 40 feet long...loading them right at the factory, and putting the container aboard ship in one operation. Today, there are 2-million containers in use.
Here's the old way, as done for centuries. One pallet at a time being loaded aboard ship. Its slow... there's breakage, and millions of dollars lost to pilferage.
This is one of the new container terminals at the port of Kaohsiung (Cow-shung), in Taiwan, the Republic of China. There are 160 ports around the world with similar setups, including 33 in the United States.
Huge gantry cranes, some 135 feet high, move 15-thousand pound containers like so many shoe boxes. Self propelled, the cranes move along dockside to load modern ships especially built to handle containers. The biggest of these ships can carry 11-hundred of them. This freighter has nine levels below deck and will carry two rows of containers on deck.
In 1971, Kaohsiung handled 27,000 containers. This year its handling 10 times that 27,000. In the United States about 65 percent of all general/cargo is containerized.
Shipping experts say with conventional methods one ton of cargo requires one man-hour of work. With containers, 200 tons can be moved in one man-hour.
Loading ships the old way often took 90 men, working round the clock, one week. Thirty-six stevedores, working with containers do the same job in less than one day.
The result...half a dozen years ago 150,000 longshoremen worked American docks while today their number is down to 90,000 and many of them work a short week.
And the demand for containers continues. 300,000 of them will be manufactured this year; ten percent being made in Taiwan.
The longshoremen's union -- the I.L.A. -- is trying to halt the cut in jobs...and in its membership, and is demanding guaranteed year-round incomes whether they work or not. They have such contracts is some American ports and are trying to improve them through the strike which is now in its fourth week.