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Shipping Lessons Learned from the BBC Box Project

November 12, 2009

BBC boxEver wonder what exactly happens to those shipping containers as they travel around the world filled with various retail goods?

The folks at the BBC did, and last week they wrapped up a year-long research project that (literally) followed a single container around the world.  The BBC Box project allowed followers to chart the container’s progress on radio, television, and online –and a year later, it tells an intriguing story about the global economy, international trade, and the network of elongated, intertwined supply chains.

Here’s a look at “The Box” in numbers:The Box in numbers

More information on the BBC Box project is available here.

It’s worthwhile to note that coincidentally, the project occurred during the first global recession in 60 years –and that from April until July, the box sat idle in the Japanese port of Yokohama. It’s a point that’s the subject of interesting commentary in this post at Transport Intelligence.

Ti’s Chief Executive, John Manners-Bell, points out that over the past year, shipping volumes have fallen by 15-20% and shipping lines’ revenues by somewhere from 25-50%.  As a result, shipping firms have taken ships out of service (particularly older ones), added more ports-of-call, and reduced the speed at which ships travel.

Of course, that all makes sense for the bottom line if you’re a shipper, but it also means that flexibility, availability and customer service have been dramatically reduced –issues that will likely become exacerbated during the upcoming holiday season.

Manners-Bell warns that there is a considerable supply chain risk for retailers and that gaps on the shelves are possible for popular lines.

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1 Comments to “Shipping Lessons Learned from the BBC Box Project”


  1. I was wondering what happened to the Box! I was following it earlier in the year but the updates stopped. Thanks for posting!

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