3D printing could decimate container shipping, says Auckland port exec

Diane Edwards
Diane Edwards

3D printing could decimate the container shipping industry over the next 20 years, warns a senior executive of the Port of Auckland.

While many of the world’s largest ports sink huge investments into being able to handle mega containerships, the General Manager, people, systems and Technology, Port of Auckland, Diane Edwards, said she believed containerisation would decrease over the next few years.

Speaking at the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Conference in Singapore, Edwards said that people were still thinking of 3D printing in very traditional terms such as manufacturing spare parts for ships, but she sees its use spreading much wider as a disruptive technology once it is adopted by consumers.

Edwards, who also specialises in change management, noted that from its introduction eight years ago, the 3D printer was available in shops just three years later and is now being used to manufacture goods wholesale all around.

Container shipping has thrived with the production of goods in countries with low cost labour shipping finished goods to consumers in developed countries. “Potentially when everyone has a 3D printer in their back yard they won’t want to ship from around the world,” Edwards, who doubles as WISTA international secretary, said. 

She said should people start manufacturing consumer goods at home, this could be very bad news for container shipping. 

“I think 3D printing is one of those disruptive technologies that is going to decimate containerisation in 20 years,” she said. 

She believes the new technology would, however, be good news for bulk shipping as it would increase the demand for raw materials.  



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