Abstract: Container Shipping and the Decline of New York

Marc Levinson


The development of container shipping in the late 1950s and the 1960s represents a major technological advance with significant economic consequences. By dramatically lowering the cost of freight handling, the container reduced the need for factories to be near suppliers and markets and opened the way for manufacturing to move out of urban centers, first domestically and then abroad. This impact was particularly intense in New York City, where the container revolution began. New York officials fought doggedly but ultimately unsuccessfully to keep the maritime industry in the city. The departure of ship lines for more suitable piers in New Jersey had a devastating impact on New York City's economy, and was a major contributor to the collapse of its industrial base between 1967 and 1975.