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September 14, 2023

Old Town manufacturer of shipping containers breaks ground on $3.9M expansion

2 people working on panel Courtesy / Global Secure Shipping Employees at the Old Town plant work on a container.

An Old Town startup that makes high-tech shipping containers broke ground last week on a $3.9 million, 15,000-square-foot expansion that could create as many as 80 jobs.

Global Secure Shipping said the build-out of its 122 Penny Road facility will increase its capacity for producing the containers to a rate of nearly four per day.

Since 2020, Global has been operating in a 17,500-square-foot space and currently has 20 employees. To date, the company has turned out 32 shipping containers for the federal government.

line of people with shovels
Courtesy / Office of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins
Global Secure Shipping broke ground last week on an expansion to produce its secure hybrid shipping container, seen behind the group, at a rate of nearly four per day.

Global is a spin-off from the University of Maine and continues to collaborate with researchers there. The city of Old Town is funding the expansion, which will be leased to Global Secure Shipping, a UMaine spokesperson told Mainebiz.

rendering of building
Courtesy / University of Maine
The planned expansion

The expansion, expected to be complete in the second quarter of 2024, comes as Global was recently awarded $3.2 million Department of Homeland Security contract for the construction of 48 secure shipping containers.

Security and tracking

Global's shipping containers, made of composite materials, were developed as a customizable solution for secure global, intermodal shipping of sensitive cargo.

They're the only containers in the world that are certified by the International Organization for Standardization, provide security across all six sides of the containers, and allow for worldwide tracking, according to a news release.

aerial of buildings
Courtesy / University of Maine
Global Secure Shipping has been operating in a 17,500-square-foot facility at 122 Penny Road since 2020.

The container commercializes patented technology resulting from more than 15 years of Department of Homeland Security-funded research and development at UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center and the Georgia Tech Research Institute. 

Department of Homeland Security funding came from the U.S. Department of Defense Title III Defense Production Act. The goal was to meet port security requirements in the Safe Port Act of 2006.

Multiyear development

The process of designing and testing the container began at the UMaine Composites Center in 2003, according to Global’s website. The development phase continued until 2012.

red shipping container and person
Courtesy / Global Secure Shipping
The container utilizes composite construction and a security system embedded within the structure.

Throughout 2013 and 2014, the container prototype received approval necessary to move forward with production. The technology developed at UMaine was supported through funding from the Department of Homeland Security’s Advanced Research Projects Agency. 

Global was spun off to commercialize the containers in 2018, and in 2021 the company conducted a trial of its first-generation container with a winter trip from Maine to Virginia.

Global monitored the container’s location, response to road stress, and temperature inside and outside of the container. The truck and container traveled through a series of truck washes and rough roads to determine whether those events could falsely trigger a safety alarm. The container’s built-in monitoring system reported no false alarms through this testing. The team was able to monitor the container’s exact location throughout the trip.

According to Global, the containers weigh less and last longer than traditional containers while also being visually indistinguishable. They include a security system embedded within the structure and provide 24-hour access to global, real-time information about cargo status.

The intrusion detection system was developed by the Georgia Tech Research Institute, also through federal funding. The system consists of a hole/intrusion detection system for each side of the container, a door opening detection system, and a two-way communications system which reports security events and tracking information.

Seaport security

“The project we celebrate today is about seaport security, but it also is about transitioning from research and development to manufacturing to create new industries, with new opportunities and good jobs,” U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said at the groundbreaking. 

She added, “Most of all, this is about the innovative spirit of Maine and our maritime heritage, with our University, GSS, local machine shops and tradespeople joining together to achieve something truly remarkable.”

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