Changes have occurred not only in the skies but also across the oceans and on land. An innovation called containerization, which kicked off in earnest in the mid-1960s, contributed massively to the expansion of international trade.
In 1956, the first container ship—the brainchild of American trucking magnate Malcom McLean—headed from New Jersey to Texas. Within ten years, the uniform, rectangular shipping container would become the standard vessel for the transportation of cargo around the world.
Prior to that, cargo was shipped in an ad hoc fashion, loaded on boats or trains in packages of all shapes and sizes. The process was disorderly, time intensive, and costly, in part because large teams of unionized workers were needed to load and unload goods, some of which could go missing along the way.
The advent of containerization upended this formula, standardizing processes and drastically reducing the logistic and labor costs of shipping. Productivity skyrocketed, aided in part by additional technological innovation. Fewer workers were needed on the docks; people lost their jobs but businesses saved money. Companies also saved on insurance costs as standardization and security prevented the theft of goods. Many ports also closed.
Containerization, coupled with general trade liberalization and technological advancement, has significantly contributed to economic globalization. The results are staggering: one study determined that containerization was correlated with a 790 percent increase in international trade over twenty years among twenty-two industrialized countries.