Cargo restraint systems have come a long way since ancient times. Modern cargo restraint systems are significantly more advanced and scientifically formulated to ensure that cargo remains safe and secure when it is being transported.

The importance of restraining cargo cannot be overstated. When cargo is not properly restrained, it risks causing damage to the goods themselves, which can have financial consequences. It can also pose significant safety risks to workers who have to load and unload cargo in shipyards or warehouses.

Let’s look back at the history of these systems to see how they have evolved over time.

Early Days

In antiquity, cargo that was transported on ships or wagons was restrained using simple ropes and nets. The ancient Egyptians, for example, made great use of ropes of various sizes, as well as nets, to secure cargo during shipping. The Romans also used ropes and nets but added the innovation of using leather straps to secure goods on wagons and chariots.

During the 1800s, the development of the railway system led to additional developments in cargo restraint. In particular, the added use of steel chains rose in prevalence, in addition to using tarps to hold goods down and prevent them from getting damaged from exposure to the elements.

Load Securing in the 1800s Inside Cargo Trains

In the early 1900s, with the advent of the automobile, chains, ropes, nets and tops continued to see widespread use. However, in addition to these well-established restraint technologies, the early 1900s saw the introduction of steel strapping.

Steel strapping, which was first produced towards the end of the 1800s, was initially used to bind bales of hay, cotton and other agricultural products. In the 1900s, steel strapping became increasingly popular for various other industrial shipping applications. Steel strapping’s strength and durability made it an ideal candidate for restraining heavy loads, particularly loads that were destined to travel significant distances.

It was during World War II that steel strapping became extremely common and high in demand, owing to its strength, reliability and relatively low production cost.

While steel strapping is still widely used today, it has been replaced over the last few decades with polyester strapping, which has been praised for being safer, more cost-effective, more flexible, and easier to handle while being just as strong and durable as steel.

Synthetic Fibres

The introduction of synthetic materials in the middle of the 1900s changed the cargo restraint game completely. Synthetic materials, such as nylon and polyester, allowed for the invention of synthetic straps, which quickly came to replace steel strapping, ropes, chains and netting. These synthetic materials were invented by two British chemists named John Rex Whinfield and James Tennant Dickson in 1941.

The invention of these synthetic materials was in response to the high demand for steel strapping during World War II. The material was initially proposed as an alternative to silk, which is extremely expensive.

Polyester is made from a polymer that is resistant to wrinkling, shrinking, fading and various other stresses. It is extremely strong and durable, capable of withstanding the elements without issue, and is a much cheaper alternative to fabrics such as silk.

However, nylon and polyester strapping and lashing truly became well-known with cargo restraint systems in the 1960s, where they were increasingly used to secure pallets, crates and other large items for their safe transportation.

Polyester lashing and nylon strapping have been proven to be superior to steel strapping in numerous ways. In particular, they are more resistant to weathering and corrosion. They are also considered to be a much safer alternative to steel strapping, as the risk of lacerations and cuts occurring on both personnel and cargo is significantly reduced owing to the synthetic systems’ soft edges.

Towards the end of the 1900s and the start of the 21st century, cargo restraint solutions rapidly became more advanced owing to improved manufacturing capabilities and scientific knowledge.

Modern polyester lashing and nylon strapping are stronger than ever before and more durable. A wide range of accessories and support tools are available to assist with strapping and lashing, making it safer and quicker to use.

Other Technological Advances

Dunnage bags, which are a critical part of the shipping industry today, were invented in the 1970s by Norwegian shipping company Hoegh Autoliners.

Cargo Dunnage Bag

These inflatable bags, which can be placed between cargo to fill gaps and prevent movement during transit, are extremely effective at protecting goods while also being inexpensive and relatively environmentally friendly. The shock-absorption properties of compressed air and the strength of dunnage bags, owing to the invention of artificial fibres, have made them indispensable in the cargo restraint systems industry.

Desiccants have also become a necessity. The use of various forms of desiccants can be traced back to ancient times when materials such as salt, charcoal and silica were used to absorb moisture to keep food and other sensitive products dry for as long as possible. The first synthetic desiccant ‒ silica gel ‒ was invented in 1919 by Walter Albert Patrick, a chemist from Johns Hopkins University.

Silica gel has since become very popular as a desiccant owing to its high absorption capacity and low cost. In recent years, the development of other synthetic desiccants has improved upon and enhanced the qualities of silica gel. Calcium chloride, which is used by X-Pak Global, is of particular interest due to its low cost and high effectiveness.

Desiccant for containers about to be install inside the container

Here at X-Pak Global, we pride ourselves on delivering some of the most advanced and dependable cargo restraint systems in the modern shipping industry. Get in touch with us to find out more about the various systems we offer.