Shipping Containers and Urban Redevelopment

Great main article in the AFR Review last Friday 25 Aug 2006 by Witold Rybczynski.  It is only 50 years ago that the first full-fledged container shipping occurred.  Major change has occurred in cities worldwide with the introduction of containerisation.  He cites that London and New York each had about 50,000 dock workers in the decade after World War II.  With containers, large workforces are no longer required, wharves no longer need to be located close to cities and large container ports such as Swanston Dock here in Melbourne negated the need for the large number of small docks along the Yarra River.  Cultual change also occurred with the removal of petty crime from the docks (with lots of items previously falling off the back of trucks available for sale – no longer possible in secure containers).

Fifty years ago, it would have been almost impossible to foresee this.  Large numbers of displaced workers, the decay of breakbulk wharves along the Yarra, the introduction of large container ships have allowed the Docklands to be redeveloped for housing.  An interesting question then is if this has occurred in the past 50 years, will there be a major change to shipping goods over the next 20 to 30 years that similarly results in major change, or will this come from another source?

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