9 episodes

Containers is an 8-part audio documentary about how global trade has transformed the economy and ourselves. Host and correspondent Alexis Madrigal leads you through the world of ships and sailors, technology and tugboats, warehouses and cranes. At a time when Donald Trump is threatening to toss out the global economic order, Containers provides an illuminating, deep, and weird look at how capitalism actually works now.

Containers Fusion

    • Technology

Containers is an 8-part audio documentary about how global trade has transformed the economy and ourselves. Host and correspondent Alexis Madrigal leads you through the world of ships and sailors, technology and tugboats, warehouses and cranes. At a time when Donald Trump is threatening to toss out the global economic order, Containers provides an illuminating, deep, and weird look at how capitalism actually works now.

    Episode 8: Robots, Piers Full of Robots

    Episode 8: Robots, Piers Full of Robots

    In the conclusion of this series, we peer into the future of human-robot combinations on the waterfront and in the rest of the supply chain. We’ll hear about the strange future of cyborg trucking and meet the friendly little helper bots in warehouses. The view of automation that sees only a battle between robots vs. humans is wrong. It’s humans all the way down.
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    • 29 min
    Episode 7: The Lost Docks

    Episode 7: The Lost Docks

    It’s 1979 and containerization is sweeping through the San Francisco waterfront, leaving the old docks in ruins. As global trade explodes, a group of longshoremen band together to try to preserve the culture of work that they knew. They take pictures, create a slide show, and make sound recordings. Those recordings languished in a basement for 40 years. In this episode, we hear those archival tapes as a way of exploring the human effects of automation.
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    • 38 min
    Episode 6: And They Won, They Won Big

    Episode 6: And They Won, They Won Big

    It started with a puzzle: why were people in West Oakland dying 12-15
    years earlier than their counterparts in the wealthier hills? The
    people in the flatlands were dying of the same things as the people in
    the hills, just much younger. Meet the doctor who helped make the case
    that air pollution from cargo handling was one big part of the answer,
    and the smart-dressing, wise-cracking environmental activist who
    helped to clean up the air. This is an inside look at the problems
    that come with being a major node in the network of global trade—and
    the solutions that people have devoted their lives to implementing.
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    • 29 min
    Episode 5: The America-First Ships

    Episode 5: The America-First Ships

    American companies pioneered container shipping, but now the ocean freight business is dominated by foreign firms. Thanks to the Jones Act, a 1920 law, all cargo between American ports must be carried on American-made ships, so we do still have a fleet. But the ships are old and outdated. In episode five, we explore the tragic consequences of this "America-first" trade policy, beginning with the El Faro, which sank in October 2015.
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    • 26 min
    Episode 4: The Hidden Side of Coffee

    Episode 4: The Hidden Side of Coffee

    The coffee world has changed since Starbucks rose to prominence. Not
    only has the sourcing of beans acquired wine-like precision, but now
    there are many small, local roasters. How'd this all happen? Episode 4
    brings you into the infrastructure underpinning third-wave coffee from
    a Kenyan coffee auction to a major coffee importer to a secret coffee
    warehouse in San Leandro with beans from every coffee-growing nation
    in the world. We’re guided by Aaron Van der Groen, the green coffee
    buyer for San Francisco’s legendary roaster Ritual Coffee.
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    • 33 min
    Episode 3: The Ships, The Tugs, and the Port

    Episode 3: The Ships, The Tugs, and the Port

    You know you’ve always wanted to ride in a tugboat as it pushes around a huge cargo ship, right? Well, that’s what we do in Episode 3. We go inside working life on the San Francisco Bay to see how brutal competition among shipping companies threatens the viability of the small businesses that ply the waters. Meet a tugboat dispatcher, a
    skipper, and the first female captain of an American freighter. It’s a case study in how globalization works and our first look at the challenges the port faces.
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    • 29 min

Customer Reviews

lataylor_! ,

Fascinating and engaging series

Great exploration of a surprisingly interesting topic. Shipping containers are ubiquitous and have shaped our world in a significant way, yet I knew little about their role in changing the global economy and their impact on every aspect of our lives. This series educated me but did so ina really engaging way. I am now a fan of Alexis Madrigal and will be looking out for anything else he creates. Highly recommended!

pogpastfan ,

Painful

Maybe I am misguided but I thought this would be about containers not poet longshoremen. Great topic. Fuzzy execution

Lech1910 ,

Limited perspective

There are so many more players involved in the industry: Surveyors, charterers, ship owners..why weren’t they interviewed?

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