La boîte qui a changé le monde

Elle mesure 12 mètres de long, 2,6 ou 2,9 mètres de haut, et 2,4 mètres de large. Elle peut transporter jusqu’à 29 tonnes dans un volume d’utilisation recommandé de 60 m3, soit des marchandises d’une valeur d’environ 500 000 dollars (ou plus) vendues au détail. Cette boîte et son contenu peuvent être transportés en un mois partout dans le monde où il y a des ports équipés, des chemins de fer, des locomotives, des wagons plats, des semi-remorques, du diesel et des routes.

Cette boîte, c’est le conteneur standardisé. Il permet de transporter des marchandises non fragiles, non périssables, de toute usine moderne équipée d’une aire de chargement à tout entrepôt moderne n’importe où dans le monde, pour environ 1 % de la valeur au détail. Le transport s’effectue en effet pour un coût marginal d’environ 5 000 dollars, soit moins qu’un billet d’avion en première classe, comme le fait remarquer Marc Levinson, auteur de l’excellent ouvrage The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger .

Tout cela date des années 1960. A l’époque, le coût du transport international transocéanique de la plupart des marchandises représentait facilement 10 % à 20 % de la valeur au détail. Le conteneur a tout changé.

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