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The Weekly Maritime Ireland Blog – Containers -Lifeblood of global supply

How often do you see containers ? On a lorry somewhere on the roads around Ireland? On a ship in an Irish port? On a train passing through the countryside? Did you ever wonder how far they have travelled, or about the condition they are in, if you see a rusty looking one? They are the lifeblood of the global supply chain, a vital part of shipping. This week’s new edition of the MARITIME IRELAND RADIO SHOW, starting this Monday on three Podcast services – Apply, Spotify, Mixcloud, will focus on containers and unique work being done about their safety and security at University College, Cork.

The newspaper photographs and television pictures of the huge container ship, Ever Given, stacked high with containers and blocking the Suez Canal brought starkly to public attention the vital importance of containers in carrying the goods nations around the world and, of course, including Ireland, need. According to shipping industry information there are more than 20 million shipping containers around the globe. Moving them, positioning them in the right places requires constant logistical management. Over the past decade the number of container ships in the world fleet has increased to nearly 6,000 with a carrying capacity, according to recent figures, of about 2 billion deadweight tons. A 20ft. TEU, means a twenty-foot equivalent and is universal. There are also 40ft.containers. In modern times containers are being turned into apartments, riversides around Europe being increasingly used. This has also been suggested for Ireland.

However, their primary value worldwide is providing transport for all types of products. There are problems, primarily caused at present by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Restrictions on shipping and port operations have caused a situation in freight shipping where there is a shortage of containers, disrupting global trade. Shipping companies reduced operations, the normal flow of containers importing and exporting goods was affected, impacting world trade. Governments failed to understand their dependence on shipping and containers

So shipping lines, freight forwarders and haulage companies are under increasing pressure. There are reports that the Christmas trade, a busy economic period, could be affected. Approximately 89% of the global fleet are dry containers, which equates to 25 million and numbers are expected to grow by 4-5% year on year.

Resolving these issues and their impact on world trade is essential, in which Cork has a major role, developing the ‘smart container’  through research and development at the Tyndall National Institute at UCC. On the banks of the River Lee at the Lee Maltings it is a research flagship. Tyndall and Net Feasa, an Irish SME based in Dingle are working jointly on the development.  The Kerry company has over 30 years of experience in wireless communications, IoT, cloud, big data, machine learning and network security, having pioneered cellular (GSM) connectivity for both the maritime and aviation industry since the early 2000’s.

Mike Hayes is Head of ICT for Energy Efficiency at Tyndall. “The cargo within these containers needs to be constantly tracked and monitored to ensure it has a safe and compliant journey to its final destination,” he says. He will be discussing containers and outlining the research work on the new edition of the MARITIME IRELAND RADIO SHOW, which provides the widest broadcast coverage in Ireland of maritime matters.

Also on the programme – the RNLI and a special moment for an Irish Coxswain and the island communities tell the Government it is time to put into action the recommendations of the many reports the State has prepared about the future of the offshore islands.

Do tune in and take part in the maritime conversation. Email your comments to: and we’re also on Facebook and Twitter with regular maritime news. Follow: @TomMacSweeney

Tom MacSweeney

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