Companies Test Foldable Shipping Containers To Resolve Shipping Imbalance

Designers of folding shipping containers hope there will be more demand for their products because of the backups created by the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues, according to a recent Bloomberg report.

The containers are either collapsible or fold up like an accordion to as little as one-fifth their normal size.

More than a quarter of the 862 million containers measured in 20-foot equivalent units that pass through ports this year will be empty, according to an estimate from Drewry. They will wait days or weeks due to supply chain delays. Meanwhile, many companies are having problems finding enough containers to ship their products.

‘Transporting Air’

“We can solve part of this imbalance, or at least the inefficiency of transporting air,” Hans Broekhuis, chief executive officer at Holland Container Innovations Nederland BV, known as 4Fold, said in the Bloomberg article.

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In 2013, 4Fold’s 40-foot metal boxes became the first foldable units to get certification from the Container Safety Convention and International Organization for Standardization, among others, meeting standards required by shipping lines, terminals and rail companies. More than 15 carriers and shippers at 60 ports worldwide are testing them, he said.

Jim Hagemann Snabe, chairman of the world’s largest shipping line, A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, referred to foldable containers as the “dream of the shipping industry” last year. At the same time, consumer-goods producers, including Procter & Gamble Company, are also testing the technology.

The technology has been delayed in its implementation, in part, because of higher upfront costs and hesitancy to turn to a new business model, Bloomberg reported.