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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora