Standard Shipping Containers
Standard Shipping Containers in the Imperium by Gabe Thullen
A bit of history
The standard shipping container is a major invention which revolutionized interstellar shipping. Nowadays, these containers are taken for granted, but historians agree that their advent contributed to a large extent to the success of the Zhunastu Industries, which in turn lead to the birth of the Third Imperium.
Cleon Zhunastu, the future emperor Cleon I, acquired controlling interest in the Zhunastu Conglomerate in the year -30, and the corporate records, available at the imperial archives, show that the first standard shipping containers were being produced shortly thereafter.
According to his biographical notes, Cleon developed his idea of standard shipping containers during his sabbatical tour of the Rimward frontier, from -34 to -30. He noted that he had to spend days or even weeks waiting at the starports while hundreds of stevedores unloaded then reloaded the interstellar freighters. He then thought of a way to speed up this process. By way of comparison the same task is now completed in less than a day by an eight person crew.
Some historians claim that this is a casebook example of ancient technology which had been forgotten during the Long Night. The standard shipping containers would have been invented on Terra before the development of spaceflight, and would have contributed to an explosion of commerce which ultimately led to the discovery of jump drives! Unfortunately for them, there is no documentary evidence to support this theory and the consensus among the scientific community is that this is just another part of the Myth that surrounds old Terra and the ancients.
Imperial Standards Bureau (ISB)
During the few decades of growth containerization meant using different and incompatible container sizes and corner fittings from one planet to another. There were dozens of incompatible container systems in the Sylean Federation alone!
The Imperium noted that logistics would be greatly improved by further standardization, and some of the recommendations by the Imperial Standards Bureau (ISB) concerned shipping containers:
R-668: terminology, dimensions and ratings;
R-790: identification markings;
R-1161: corner fittings;
R-1897 minimum internal dimensions of general purpose freight containers.
These different standards can be summarized as follows:
Dimensions: 6m x 3m x 3m (+/- 0.01 m).
Mass: 3.85 tons
Fully loaded containers should be stackable 10 high.
The carrying capacity of freight liners is often given in « TEU », in other words the number of standard containers which can be carried. Thus a 5000 ton freighter could be designated as a 1024 TEU or 880 TEU, depending on the drive size. It is not known what the abbreviation « TEU » stands for.
Other standard containers
Major companies now use a « long box », which occupies the same volume as two standard containers put end to end:
It measures 12m x 3m x 3m and has a mass of 7.7 tons.
Many variations on the standard container exist. One common type of container is called a tanktainer, basically a tank inside a standard container frame, and is used to carry liquids.
Containers can also incorporate an independent power supply, as well as environmental controls, so that refrigerated containers can be used to transport perishables.
There are many other uses, including:
Prefab offices and housing;
All-in-one small scale manufacturing units.
Tricon and Quadcon
The Imperial Navy has recently started using intermodal freight containers to transport and store equipment. Two extremely versatile « mini-containers » are in use:
Tricon (Triple Containers):
2m x 3m x 3m. Three of these link up to form one standard container.
Quadcon (Quadruple Containers):
1.5m x 3m x 3m. Four of these link up to form one standard container.
These military containers are not used for commercial shipping as there is far too much « dead weight », and only the Navy can afford such waste. When three or four companies want to share a container for shipping purposes, it is far more efficient to set up partitions inside a standard container.