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PUBLISHER: Container News (

When Malcolm McLean laid the foundations for what’s now become the global containerisation phenomenon, his vision was for standardisation across the entire supply chain. If goods of all types could be loaded into metal boxes, all 20 feet long and eight feet high, then the vessels that carry them and the port infrastructure required to handle their shoreside movement could also be standardised. Trucks and trains could hook up with ships and the boxes easily transhipped to their final delivery point.

McLean’s vision is now a reality but when he sat down to develop his ideas, he probably hadn’t reckoned on the forest of paperwork that is now obliged to accompany each container journey. Today, a single cargo move can require up to 36 original documents and 240 copies to be exchanged between almost 30 different parties. Although McLean has managed to streamline the movement of goods, his creation has spawned a paper monster that urgently needs taming.

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