Intermodal shipping containers, standardized and capable of being carried on trucks, trains, barges, or ships, have transformed the global economy since they were introduced in 1959. By allowing previously separated segments of regional and global transport systems to interact, they have vastly expanded global trade and facilitated supply chains that stretch around the world. But vulnerabilities in the system became apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Problems at key bottlenecks in the system, compounded by an unexpected six-day shutdown of the vital Suez Canal, precipitated global disruptions leading to shortages of goods and soaring prices around the world. As the global shipping industry recovers, it will have an opportunity to transition toward a system that is more resilient.

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