Shipping containers get foldable design as logjam cure

Few tools of the global economy have survived without major innovations as long as the shipping container. The supply ructions around the world are presenting an opportunity to test that incumbency.

A truck carries a shipping container at the Georgia Port Authority Mason Mega Rail Terminal in Garden City, Ga., on Nov. 12, 2021. Foto: Bloomberg photo by Adam Kuehl

As ports, rail yards and warehouses get clogged up with the standardized metal boxes both empty and full of goods, the stars are aligning for a product that was a hard sell before the pandemic: shipping containers that fold up accordion- or collapsible-style to as much as one-fifth their usual size. At least, that's what their backers are hoping.

Almost 27% of the 862 million crates measured in 20-foot equivalent units that pass through the world's ports this year will be empty, according to Drewry estimates. The cost to the shipping industry to get them to places where they'll be loaded is about $20 billion, Boston Consulting Group has calculated. Many will spend days or weeks taking up space in already-jammed holding areas and depots, compounding delays along supply chains...

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