A revolutionary ship with a short career
On 26 April 1956, the ship Ideal X departed Port Newark, New Jersey on a voyage to Houston, Texas. The ship had been launched in 1945 as the T-2 tanker SS Potrero Hills. The ship had made many voyages in the intervening eleven years, but this was different. The ship had only recently been acquired by the Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corporation, which shortly before had been acquired by the trucking magnate Malcolm McLean. McLean had become frustrated by the inefficiencies of unloading trucks by hand so as to reload the cargo onto ships. He thought he had a better way. He modified some of his trucks so that the cargo-containing trailer was physically detachable from the chassis. After acquiring the tanker Potrero Hills, he installed a metal platform above the tank tops and piping so that the trailers (soon to be known as shipping containers) could be loaded onto the deck. A total of 58 loaded trailers were secured to the deck in Port Newark. The Ideal X transited to Houston, arriving at City Dock 10 on 2 May, where the trailers were promptly transferred to waiting trucks. By the use of shipping containers, Malcolm McLean had increased the speed and efficiency of multi-modal shipping and reduced losses due to breakage and theft. Pan-Atlantic modified other ships to carry containers on deck and then modified other ships so that standardized containers could be loaded into cells in the cargo holds. Other shipping companies observed these developments and quickly followed suit. The container revolution was born. The Ideal X was sold by Pan-Atlantic in 1959 and renamed the SS Elemir, resuming service as a tanker. It was damaged in a Pacific storm and broken up in Japan in 1965.