Shipping containers prove versatile in COVID-19 fight

While we are used to seeing shipping containers at ports and on ships, and sometimes even converted into tiny homes, it is worth noting that they can also be useful in the fight against COVID-19.

Shippers have been left with thousands of empty containers to move because of the slow down of the logistics supply chain.

Containers are themselves versatile offering a larger footprint of up to 40ft (12.2m) in length and are typically are a water-tight space.

In a recent article, Johnathan Bulmer, managing director at Cleveland Containers, has highlighted three uses for shipping containers.

First, makeshift hospitals can be built using shipping containers as the demand for health care rises exponentially.

A video from the World Economic Forum provides an example of how shipping containers can be used to provide extra hospital space.

Another design which has received funding to develop its first prototype is the Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments (CURA), notes Bulmer in his piece.

In the same way in which pop-up shops and co-working spaces can be turned around quickly, the CURA fits all equipment and features of an intensive care unit placed inside a 20ft container.

Hospital housing and temporary accommodation is yet another use for containers.

Detroit-based cargo architecture firm Three Squared has turned its “state-of-the-art cargo container dwellings” as relief units for hospitals, but also as appropriately appointed and climate-controlled housing units for doctors and nurses needing to stay close to those patients.

The company also notes that the dwellings have also been turned over as relief units for morgue/mortuary overflow. As is the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, Bulmer notes that in the UK, 500 temporary prison cells are being made from steel shipping containers, with more expected to be built if demand continues.

They will be built in a prefabricated manner into the grounds of seven prisons, in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus in these locations where it’s harder to maintain social distancing. Work has begun on HMP North Sea Camp along with others in Moorland, Lindholme and Huber, according to the Ministry of Justice.

“Shipping containers have been used as temporary measures for years, but never in such a capacity for healthcare as they are today. What the landscape will look like after the pandemic passes – which it will, eventually – is unclear.

“But temporary changes to tackle the crisis now may endure into the future, and create a new normal for reactive relief efforts, with design ready-made,” Bulmer noted.

Finally, as a minor distraction for those working from home full-time and schools being closed, shipping line Hapag-Lloyd has offered a fold your own Hapag-Lloyd container that can be printed out, coloured in and assembled at home.