Malcolm McLean -
the man changed the world

Malcolm McLean

Malcolm McLean was born in a small town of Maxton, Robeson County, North Carolina, USA. 

Growing up in a farming family in Great Depression period, he only finished high school level. In 1931, pumping gas at a station near his hometown helped him save enough money to buy a secondhand pickup truck for $120. Understanding the value of work hard and determination, he soon developed his truck fleet to five trucks and more, and finally 1,776 trucks by the early 1950s.

In 1937, while waiting hours for his truck to be unloaded at Hoboken, New Jersey, McLean came across the idea that not only changed his destiny but also the entire shipping world: the notion of “containerization”. He recalled, “I had to wait most of the day to deliver the bales, sitting there in my truck, watching stevedores load other cargo. It struck me that I was looking at a lot of wasted time and money. I watched them take each crate off the truck and slip it into a sling, which would then lift the crate into the hold of the ship.”

Born in 1914

1931: Mc Lean completes high school

1934: McLean buys the first secondhand truck

1937: McLean conceives the idea about container, while waiting for his truck to be loaded in New Jersey

Early 1950s: McLean Trucking Company owns and operates 1,776 trucks

1955: McLean Industries acquired a small steam ship company, Pan Atlantic

1956: Ideal X, a converted old tanker carries 58 containers of 35 feet from Newark, New Jersey to Houston, Texas.

1957: McLean Industries converts some vessels to carry containers only. The first full-celled container ship Gateway City begins service.

1960: Pan Atlantic name changes to Sea-Land

1969: McLean sold controlling interest in Sea-Land to R.J.Reynolds

1986: CSX Corporation buys Sea-Land

1999: A.P.Moller Group buys Sea-Land Service, after a short period of ownership by CSX Corporation

2001: McLean dies at the age of 87

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