Title:
SUBMERSIBLE CARGO CONTAINER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Various embodiments of this invention disclose a standard sized shipping container that is submersible, such that it may be towed behind a seagoing vessel as well as loaded and stored on the deck of a sea going vessel. Various embodiments of the invention allow standard shipping containers to be towed behind seagoing vessels and containers to be sealed and submerged in order to prevent tampering during transit.



Inventors:
Stremel, Kevin (Pasadena, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/754157
Publication Date:
11/27/2008
Filing Date:
05/25/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
220/1.5, 414/137.1, 414/803
International Classes:
B65D88/78; B63G8/42
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
OLSON, LARS A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Hankin Patent Law, APC (Los Angeles, CA, US)
Claims:
1. A submersible shipping container, comprising: a container with outside dimensions equal to one of the standard container dimensions specified by the International Organization for Standardization, said container being waterproof and submersible, said container being configured for towing behind a ship and beneath the surface of the water without water penetration to the interior of said container, and said container including an attachment system for being towed while submerged by a vessel or by another shipping container.

2. A submersible shipping container according to claim 1, wherein said container is generally comprised of a plastic material.

3. A submersible shipping container according to claim 2, wherein said plastic material comprises a plastic material selected from the group of: polyvinyl chloride, fiberglass, polycarbonate plastic, polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene terephthalate, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, acrylic, silicone, urethane, Teflon, Kevlar, elastomer, and engineering plastic.

4. A submersible shipping container according to claim 1, wherein said container is generally enclosed by a steel exoskeleton framework and features an interior waterproofing shell.

5. A submersible shipping container according to claim 1, wherein said container comprises a common steel shipping container that features a sprayed-on waterproofing coating at the interior surface of said common steel shipping container.

6. A submersible shipping container according to claim 1, wherein said container comprises a common steel shipping container that features a rubberized waterproof coating at the interior surface of said common steel shipping container.

7. A system for shipping cargo containers, comprising: a plurality of shipping containers of the standard dimensions specified by the International Organization for Standardization, one or more of said containers being configured to be waterproof and submersible, said one or more containers being configured for towing behind a ship without water penetration to the interior of said containers, said one or more containers including an attachment system for being towed by said vessel or another shipping container, and a marine vessel, said marine vessel configured to transport said plurality of shipping containers.

8. A submersible shipping container according to claim 7, wherein said one or more containers being waterproof and submersible are generally comprised of a plastic material.

9. A submersible shipping container according to claim 8, wherein said plastic material comprises a plastic material selected from the group of: polyvinyl chloride, fiberglass, polycarbonate plastic, polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene terephthalate, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, acrylic, silicone, urethane, Teflon, Kevlar, elastomer, and engineering plastic.

10. A submersible shipping container according to claim 7, wherein said one or more containers being waterproof and submersible comprise a container featuring a steel exoskeleton framework and an interior waterproofing shell.

11. A submersible shipping container according to claim 7, wherein said one or more containers being waterproof and submersible comprise a common steel shipping container that features a sprayed-on waterproofing coating at the interior surface of said common steel shipping container.

12. A submersible shipping container according to claim 7, wherein said one or more containers being waterproof and submersible comprise a common steel shipping container that features a rubberized waterproof coating at the interior of said common steel shipping container.

13. A method for transporting International Organization for Standardization standard shipping containers, comprising: preparing a plurality of said International Organization for Standardization standard shipping containers such that said plurality of said International Organization for Standardization standard shipping containers are waterproof and submersible, placing one or more waterproof and submersible containers underwater and attaching to a tow line, towing said one or more waterproof and submersible containers by a vessel while said waterproof and submersible containers are partially or fully submerged, removing said one or more waterproof and submersible containers from the water.

14. A method for transporting International Organization for Standardization standard shipping containers according to claim 13, wherein said method of preparing a plurality of said International Organization for Standardization standard shipping containers such that said plurality of said International Organization for Standardization standard shipping containers are waterproof and submersible comprises installing an interior waterproof shell to said International Organization for Standardization standard shipping containers.

15. A submersible shipping container according to claim 14, wherein said interior waterproof shell comprises a plastic material selected from the group of: polyvinyl chloride, fiberglass, polycarbonate plastic, polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene terephthalate, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, acrylic, silicone, urethane, Teflon, Kevlar, elastomer, and engineering plastic.

16. A method for transporting International Organization for Standardization standard shipping containers according to claim 13, wherein said method of preparing a plurality of said International Organization for Standardization standard shipping containers such that said plurality of said International Organization for Standardization standard shipping containers are waterproof and submersible comprises installing a sprayed-on waterproofing system to said International Organization for Standardization standard shipping containers.

17. A submersible standardized shipping container, comprising, a standardized steel shipping container, said standardized steel shipping container having an interior surface and an exterior surface, an interior waterproof shell, said interior waterproof shell comprising, a plurality of plastic panels, said plurality of plastic panels being fixedly attached to the interior surfaces of said standardized steel shipping container and fixedly attached to one another such that a waterproof seal is created at the interior surface of said standardized steel shipping container.

18. A submersible standardized shipping container according to claim 17, wherein the dimensions of said standardized steel shipping container conform to the dimensions specified for such containers by the International Organization for Standardization.

19. A submersible standardized shipping container according to claim 17, wherein said interior waterproof shell comprises a plastic material selected from the group of: polyvinyl chloride, fiberglass, polycarbonate plastic, polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene terephthalate, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, acrylic, silicone, urethane, Teflon, Kevlar, elastomer, and engineering plastic.

Description:

FIELD OF INVENTION

This invention relates, generally, to cargo containers; more particularly, to submersible standard cargo containers.

BACKGROUND

Since its conception several decades ago, Malcolm McLean's invention of the standard shipping container has been an important element of the logistics revolution that changed freight handling in the 20th century. The standardized shipping container (“International Organization for Standardization standard container” or “isotainer”) improved transportation efficiency by using a container that was easily transferable from one form of transportation to another, as part of a comprehensive system. Thus, the standard shipping container largely eliminated the need for repackaging goods while in transit, thereby saving time and transit costs.

Throughout the life of the shipping container, several improvements have been made upon the basic design of the container. U.S. Pat. No. 4,186,845 to Podd, for example, discloses a liner for use with standard shipping containers that helps reduce moisture intrusion into the cargo container and, thus, protects the goods within the container. U.S. Pat. No. 4,884,722 to Podd further improves upon the '845 liner by disclosing a container liner that facilitates discharging bulk cargo from a container while protecting the contents of the container from moisture. Similarly, U.S. Pat. No. 5,040,693 to Podd, Sr. et al. discloses a liner for cargo containers and method for installing these liners inside cargo containers. Also, U.S. Pat. No. 5,489,037 to Stopper discloses a system for lining cargo containers that allows easier unloading of the container. While these liner systems are effective in preventing moisture intrusion into the container, the liners fail to allow the container to be submerged in water and fail to provide a means of protecting the container from tampering or the insidious addition of contraband materials.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,749,076 to Fingerhut et al. discloses an improved cargo container that is both explosion and impact proof. The high strength panels in the improved cargo container add strength and resistance to explosion to the container. The container, however, is not adapted for use in standard ISO shipping and fails to disclose a means for being submerged.

U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,913,512 and 4,135,468 to Kirby et al. disclose transportation methods and barge-carrying vessels that allows for the transport of floating cargo. Kirby's methods and devices, however, are not compatible with the standard cargo container, which is today's most common system for cargo shipping. Another buoyant article transporter is disclosed by U.S. Pat. No. 3,186,369 to McLennan et al. McLeenan's device, however, is adapted to shipping floating articles such as logs and cannot be used with standard shipping containers.

The use of various containers for the buoyant storage of goods is disclosed by a various United States patents. U.S. Pat. No. 4,506,623 to Roper et al., for example, discloses a buoyant marine storage vessel for fluids such as oil. Roper's device, however, is not suited to storing dry goods and is not adapted to transportation. Similarly, U.S. Pat. No. 4,881,482 to Sandwith et al. discloses a floating storage facility for fluid-like materials. Like Roper's device, however, Sandwith's device is not suited to dry goods or transportation.

Another series of devices have been developed for towing cargo in submersible containers. U.S. Pat. No. 4,108,101 to Schirtzinger, for example, discloses an arrangement for transporting goods in which a surface vessel tows a submersible elongated vessel by means of a boom lowered from the surface vessel. Similarly, U.S. Pat. No. 5,235,928 to Shank, Jr. discloses a towable tank for holding liquids (such as fuel) that may be towed by a ship and allow for additional fuel storage by the ship below the water. A similar container for transporting compressed gas is disclosed by U.S. Pat. No. 6,260,501 to Agnew. While the above devices disclose means for underwater transportation, they fail to disclose a device that can transport dry goods underwater.

A sea shipping system that uses a series of submersible vessels is disclosed by U.S. Pat. No. 4,688,505 to Yang. Yang's system consists of a series of spherically shaped balls that may be towed behind a ship in order to allow transport of goods. Like the above systems and devices, however, Yang fails to disclose a system that is compatible with standard sized shipping containers. Furthermore, all of these systems are incompatible with the other systems of transport standardized by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Thus, there remains a long felt need in the art for a submersible shipping container and system that is compatible with standard shipping containers, and which allows the container to be towed behind a vessel.

DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

In the following description of various embodiments of the invention, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of various aspects of one or more embodiments of the invention. However, one or more embodiments of the invention may be practiced without these specific details. In other instances, well-known methods, procedures, and/or components have not been described in detail so as not to unnecessarily obscure aspects of embodiments of the invention.

While multiple embodiments are disclosed, still other embodiments of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed description, which shows and describes illustrative embodiments of the invention. As will be realized, the invention is capable of modifications in various obvious aspects, all without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. Accordingly, the drawings and detailed description are to be regarded as illustrative in nature and not restrictive. Also, the reference or non-reference to a particular embodiment of the invention shall not be interpreted to limit the scope the invention.

In the following description, certain terminology is used to describe certain features of one or more embodiments of the invention. For instance, “shipping container” refers to any of the containerization systems of intermodal cargo transport using standard ISO containers or isotainers that can be loaded, sealed and intact onto container ships, railroad cars and trucks; and “plastic” refers to any of the various polyvinyl chloride, fiberglass, polycarbonate plastic, polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene terephthalate, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, acrylic, silicone, urethane, Teflon, Kevlar, elastomer, engineering plastic, or other such plastics known in the art. Various embodiments of the invention are directed toward overcoming the above shortcomings by disclosing a standard sized shipping container that is submersible, such that it may be towed behind a seagoing vessel as well as loaded and stored on the deck of a sea going vessel that carries standard shipping containers. Further improvements and variations are disclosed in the summary description of the invention below.

The invention comprises a standard shipping container that includes panels or an interior shell that is manufactured from a hard plastic material. The panels, which form the shell of the shipping container, are sealed such that the container is completely waterproof and may be submerged without water intrusion into the container. Outside elements of the container may be manufactured from steel, such that they are compatible with standard shipping containers and are resistant to damage, which may occur during shipping.

In various embodiments of the invention, the protective shell comprises a sprayed-on protective lining that provides waterproofing to the container. In another variation of the invention, reinforced rubber is placed on the outside of the container such that the container is made waterproof.

Some of the improvements made to standard shipping containers, which are disclosed by this invention, include improvements that allow the containers to be submersible. In this manner, once a ship reaches its capacity for containers on its deck, additional submersible containers may be towed behind the ship. In this manner, a single vessel is able to carry more than its usual number of containers by towing a number of containers behind the ship. Also, vessels not adapted to towing containers (cruise ships or naval ships, for example), may be used to tow standardized shipping containers. Furthermore, a ship that reaches its capacity for a crossing or lock may transfer part of its load from on deck to the water in order to be towed behind the ship. Thus, the invention discloses a means for increasing a ship's overall capacity.

The towing of the container may be accomplished by any of the means, such as ropes, chains, and cables, that are known in the art for towing objects from a ship. The containers feature hooks or pulls as an attachment system to allow them to be connected to the ship and one another.

Furthermore, by disclosing a container that includes an extremely strong seal, the device discloses a means for preventing tampering to the container. First, by being towed behind a ship and being submerged, the containers prevent tampering while in transit. Furthermore, even when above the surface of the water or on deck, the containers feature an improved seal mechanism, which makes tampering more difficult compared to conventional shipping containers. These improvements are especially desirable in light of the recent increase in international terrorism, which demands that governments more closely monitor goods entering their ports.

Other advantages allowed by various embodiments of the invention are the reduction of fire hazards. The additional sealing qualities of the shipping container serve to protect the interior contents from fire or further such dangers in the course of transport.

Thus, the invention discloses a standard shipping container that is submersible, such that it may be towed behind a vessel with, or may be stored on the deck of the ship, along with other, standard containers. Because the shipping container conforms to the International Organization for Standardization requirements, it is also compatible with standard inter-modal logistical practices.