News / Asia

    As Shipping Slows Worldwide, Taiwanese Occupy Old Containers

    FILE - Crew members look out from the world's largest container ship, the MV Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller.
    FILE - Crew members look out from the world's largest container ship, the MV Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller.
    Ralph Jennings

    Marine shipping has declined worldwide along with shaky consumer demand. Less freight naturally means more idle shipping containers that carry goods from ports to markets. In one of Asia’s older shipping hubs, Taiwan, people are finding practical and even artistic new uses for the unused steel crates.

    The number of parked container ships worldwide rose sharply in November to a five-year record. The industry publication International Shipping News says idle ships account for nearly five percent of the world’s fleet due to slow demand and overcapacity. But in Kaohsiung, the major port city in shipping-intensive Taiwan, mothballed (unused) containers have moved inland. They have sprouted windows, doors, balconies and even bars that serve beer.

    Taiwanese are literally moving into some of the old containers. Some have been converted to roadside stands or farm offices. A few function as suburban homes. A restaurant and a political campaign office use seven containers apiece. And the city of Kaohsiung put eight structures on display at a container art festival in December.

    Taiwan architect Lin Chih-feng said modern Taiwanese like containers for their novelty value and structural flexibility.

    Little by little, container structures are attracting people's attention. Lin said people are finding that they are unusual and easy to use for construction. A third draw is their convertibility, he said, and that one can move them around.

    Containers might move first to the numerous stacks alongside expressways in Kaohsiung. They are either idle or too dented and rusted to be seaworthy. At Yu-Feng Container Enterprise Co., where boxes are piled up to seven levels, the management has built a side business rehabbing them for homes and sales offices. The firm that normally earns its keep storing containers now gets 30 percent of its business from conversions, which start at about $1,000 per job.

    Yu-Feng manager Natasha Lee said retrofitting can be done fast. She speaks from her partitioned, air-conditioned and furnished office built from six containers.

    Lee said it takes just one day to nail down a wooden floor and make space for electrical wiring in a normal small container. She adds that the trend has been quite popular recently because Taiwanese have taken a liking to artistic style, so they add architectural features to their containers.

    Taiwanese officials keep no statistics on how many structures are built from containers, but they are easy to find. On a road north of Kaohsiung about 60 houses and offices occupy containers. A showroom for new housing in Taipei was built from 35 containers. Some structures are two or three levels high. The swanky, two-floor sit-down restaurant in Kaohsiung includes a dining hall, a bar and an outdoor patio.

    Original corrugated steel on the containers, which are up to about 12 meters long, still shows through even on the most elaborately decorated, brightly painted structures.

    Kaohsiung's city government has held a container art festival every two years since 2000. Those events have been credited for raising public interest in trying out containers for themselves. Kaohsiung has been keen over the past decade to cut dependency on manufacturing and veer into cultural enterprises.

    One of container architecture's chief champions is city councilman Wu Yi-chung. He hopes citizens see them as art forms and environmentally friendly alternatives to permanent buildings that leave a footprint on the Earth.

    Wu said some buildings last 100, 200 or 500 years, but that others, once they're not needed, can be moved and therefore won't cause permanent environmental damage. Wu added that by having the container art festivals, people are encouraged to use these structures and reflect on their ecological significance.

    Wu speaks from a compound that he commissioned last year using seven containers. The third floor of the brightly painted structure includes a hostel room big enough for four people. Verandas on the site are big enough for chatting over coffee and watching films. A Taiwan presidential candidate, James Soong, is using the structure now to help run his campaign.

    You May Like

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese Americans for Trump Going Against National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese Americans for Trump Going Against National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora