Maersk Container ship. Image credit

Maersk Container ship. Image credit

ZIMSEC O Level Commerce Notes: Transport: Containerisation


  • Refers to the carriage of goods in standardised large containers (boxes) made of metal.
  • The containers are:
  • filled with goods ready for transportation.
  • They are sealed in the presence of custom officials at the point of loading or dispatch.
  • Opened only at the port of destination.
  • They are stowed (stacked) before transportation.
  • Used in air, rail , road and sea transport.

Advantages of using containers.

  • Can be carried cheaply
  • Are sealed during transportation at the port of loading therefore goods are safe from theft or damage.
  • Can be transported easily from one mode of transport to another e.g. from sea to rail or rail to road.
  • Allows the quick turnaround of vessels or vehicles at purpose built terminals.
  • May be refrigerated to carry perishable goods i.e. the containers can be modified to carry specialised cargo.
  • They are collapsible when empty thus making it easier to transport them and save space.
  • More space can be saved since they can be stacked when filled with goods.
  • They minimise customs checks at border entry points since they are sealed in the presence of customs officials.
  • They protect goods from deterioration due to bad weather.
  • They marked/numbered for easier identification.
  • They can be grouped by traer or type of good thus saving time.
  • Traders can combine to fill a container which is much easier to do than fill a whole ship.
  • It allows goods to be stored more easily.
  • They speed up the movement of goods.
  • They allow the use of cranes and forks i.e. mechanise handling thus:
  • speeding up the loading and unloading as well as
  • reducing the cost of loading and unloading.

Disadvantages of containers.

  • Containers:
  • require special handling equipment which can be expensive to hire.
  • Are not ideal for small loads since they can be expensive.
  • Are expensive to hire or buy.
  • May lead to unemployment at ports due to mechanisation.
  • May be costly where there are no return loads.
  • Some towns or cities are not ideal for use as container terminals.
  • They may require the rebuilding of terminals and docks.
  • Large amounts of capital are required to build ports that can handle containers.
  • There may be bottlenecks at ports if they are not cleared quickly or if there is a breakdown.

To access more topics go to the Commerce Notes page.

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