Vehicles Into Containers Goes Four

It’s been a while since I wrote a proper container post. Using containers for vehicles, instead of RORO ships, does have a number of advantages but loading difficulties and the time penalty incurred by packing, shoring and securing the ships inside the container has traditionally been a barrier to widespread adoption.

For high value vehicles, classic and prestige cars for example, using containers is gaining traction with a specialist loading frame from Consolidated Car Shipping.


By increasing packing density, costs can also be lowered but in a military context the obvious advantage is avoiding prying eyes. Driving directly or even using low loaders makes it immediately obvious what is happening but using a container can keep things discrete.

Vehicle Container Rack
Vehicle Container Rack

The vehicles will of course be limited by the dimensions of a container but for light vehicles, light artillery and some engineering plant, I think this is a pretty useful capability to have.

Lets order ten!

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Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!

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Don’t remember which customer it is for, but the improved Flyer recce/assault vehicles can now be stacked, two to take the space of one. Next step: IKEA flat packs, plenty helicoptered in underslung, and to be assembled under fire?

For some of the lighter vehicles, e.g. Land Rovers, Pinzgauers, quads, bikes (etc), it would make sense. The issue would be the destination – for Iraq it would be fine, since you’ve got fully equipped container ports right next door in Kuwait. In contrast, for Afghanistan, or in the event of a Falklands retake, it’s almost useless… A RoRo ship can quickly offload by simply having vehicles drive off, onto a makeshift dock, landing craft or whatever you need, and get out of the area quickly. It’s more useful for a sustained operations, where you’ve got a friendly/safe port nearby…


Ed’s comment reminds me (of unrelated as for topic, but not for capability):

With the Herc airdrop rame, a Pinzgauer was the best that could be done.

With Atlas ? Grizzly? new things were to come; is that frame now much more capable? Withouth the rockets that the Russians fire off just before the tank hanging off a parachute is touching down.

Andrew J Boulton

” . . . in a military context the obvious advantage is avoiding prying eyes. Driving directly or even using low loaders makes it immediately obvious what is happening but using a container can keep things discrete”.

Pretty sure CVR(T), (and, the rest of the Alvis “family”), is/has always, been moved inside a container.

Brian Black

Can’t we just 3D print trucks and tanks instead of shipping them about?

Fly in naked soldiers and print the appropriate equipment around them from their boots up. It’s the future!

Angus McLellan

@Ed: The answer to the container port problem is clearly to develop giant LTA craft which can carry 40′ containers to any convenient open space.

Containers and blimps in one post, do I get a prize?

I do love the notion of the container blimp, though as was discussed a while back, there are issues with the SkyCat types… Arguably, the best answer would be to go for something like a ConRO (I think that’s what they’re called), with a self unloading capability. You basically have the cranes built into the ship, such that you can unload reasonably quickly. If you had something akin to the American MLP, complete with a causeway, then it might work. You would basically pull up to the ad hoc dock, drive off the vehicles from the RoRo decks, then use trucks from those decks to shuttle the containers ashore…

This is where I think systems like CAMM come in. During the Falklands conflict, the less well armed or unarmed ships had to sit inside the protective cover of the Rapier batteries. We all know how well that worked… With CAMM, it should be possible to stick a couple of Giraffe AMBs ashore, and basically park a CAMM launcher module anywhere we like. If we can have a proper protective umbrella of air defences set up, then a slower unloading becomes possible. Imaging, for example, if we’d been able to offload 100 containers, each carrying a CVR(T), without needing to be quite as worried about protecting the unarmed merchant ships.

Take a look at the page about the Sea Fox self unloading container ship:

It carries 1900 TEU, which could equal a lot of smaller vehicle types, allowing the RoRo ships to focus on the heavier and bigger types exclusively!