Containers in flux

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Many containers are used, new or recycled, once their odyssey is over. One of the subsidiaries of the CMA CGM Group has become a specialist in this type of transformation.

Containers are entitled to a new life after a lifetime spent travelling the world’s oceans! Once transformed, they become a pop-up shop, a bicycle garage, a cosy home, somewhere to recycle glass bottles, etc. Within the CMA CGM Group, the subsidiary Progeco has spent the last few years reinventing these large metal boxes that can no longer go to sea. “The only limit is the customer’s imagination”, stated Laurent Uzan, Director General of Progeco. “When a customer has an idea, they approach us, often through the Group’s commercial agencies. Our damage survey centre in Dunkirk then takes over and designs one or more prototypes, depending on the customer’s request. Our teams monitor the project from start to finish, from creation to installation, for the finishing touches. The Group’s strength is that it combines technical and logistical skills with special access to raw materials.”

Turnkey projects

For Carglass, for example, Progeco created 41 mobile points of sale in an attractive red, colour mobile mini-shops that Carglass sets down on hypermarket car parks, close to its customers, who can come and have their windscreen repaired. “We started with a 40- foot high cube container that we shortened to 30 feet. Inside is an office area with kitchen and toilet, as well as a storage area for new windscreens. One key feature is that thanks to an internal generator, these mini-shops are fully energy autonomous and can be placed anywhere”, stressed Laurent Uzan. As well as these points of sale, some containers will even become fully-fledged workshops; Progeco and its customer have turned two containers placed side by side and joined together along their width into a mini-garage big enough for a car to enter. “Once the container is transformed, we can still change it; we listen to all the customer’s ideas”, stated Laurent Uzan.

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Recycled containers for recycling

Progeco has been involved in a wonderful ecological adventure in Hauts de France. At the request of the Conseil Régional, the Group subsidiary has installed an initial glass sorting station prototype in Denain (around 20 being planned for 2017); it is created from two 20- foot containers joined together, plus a skip container for removal. People scan their bottles, which are then either recycled locally in a short cycle or smelt down. “This project was fairly complicated, because not only did we have to create the structure of the container, we also had to integrate the entire electronic system for scanning the bottles, the conveyors, etc.”, explained Laurent Uzan.

New ambitions

In the future, the CMA CGM subsidiary wants to turn containers into housing units. “The containers are like the bricks in a modular construction; it’s a bit like playing with Lego. It opens up a huge number of architectural possibilities. It’s also very cheap to build using containers”, continued the Managing Director. Progeco’s ambition is now international; supported by the Group’s logistical strengths, the business can install its transformed containers almost anywhere on the planet. To provide the best possible support to our customers from design to installation, Progeco wants to invest in a new production centre and will create its own design firm. These strong, mobile and modular metallic boxes continue their life long after leaving the decks of the ships...

Progeco, a fully-owned subsidiary of CMA CGM, has more than 35 years’ experience and 300 employees. The business has 15 depots in Europe. Its activities are based around:

  1. Rental and sale of new and second hand containers.
  2. Storage and handling of containers.
  3. Repair and optimisation of containers and spare parts.
  4. Transformation of containers for “overland” uses that are as varied as possible.