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Born Barge Terminal  /

These days shipping containers are so ubiquitous that they seem to disappear into the fabric of the city as much as road signs, power lines or the miracle of modern plumbing. Their presence in and around cities as temporary work shelters, self-storage, and even housing has made them so familiar that it has become easy to forget exactly how important their invention was. It’s also easy to forget just how much a small town like Born is tied into a global economy through its barge terminal port not least because the myriad of goods that pass through its compound every day remain hidden from view.

Until the 1950s break-bulk shipping was the usual method for moving goods of any kind, in hindsight one of the most inefficient methods of moving anything. Every package was handled individually; it involved employing literally thousands of men to manually offload goods from trucks and trains to pass each item to more men on board ships who would then re-stack it in the hold. Typically this involved 8 days loading and 8 days offloading every ship, bringing with it the cost, time and frustration of truck drivers and train drivers held up awaiting their cargo along the way. It wasn’t until in 1937 that a US truck driver called Malcolm McLean, frustrated with the time he wasted waiting at docks, came up with the idea of removing the container of his truck. By placing these containers using cranes onto standardized boats and trains multi-modal transport was born - revolutionising the movement of goods and with it creating a true global economy.

Today the Born Barge terminal is a living realization of McLean’s dream – a crucial node in the infrastructure that allows us to live with the choice and luxury that we have become accustomed. An environment where nothing ever stops – cranes, trucks, ships and trains weave around one another in an endless, highly choreographed dance that keeps the world turning. As the biggest inland port in the Netherlands its significance is of no small importance, now the terminal can turn around a vessel that can hold up to 333 containers (TEU in technical terms) in a mere 7 hours, taking over 160 trucks off the road. This process enables such a vast amount of cargo to be in Rotterdam or Antwerp within 24 hours and from there onwards to anywhere in the world.

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Born Barge Terminal