Cement has been a critical building block for civilizations for thousands of years. It is the formation of urban infrastructure, a necessary building block for durable homes, schools, factories, offices, and ships. Cement itself is a binder, meaning that at its base it is a substance capable of setting and hardening independently, allowing differing materials to bind together. The evolution of cement has been steady, and while the basics stay the same, the growth and prospering of the global cement industry has relied heavily on independent industry innovators like Alexander Bouri.
Cement traces its modern beginnings to the ancient Romans who discovered that by adding crushed volcanic ash to heated limestone, cement could be produced capable of setting under water. Today, many of Italy’s most famed architecture survives into modernity because of the advances of cement in the culture’s architecture. The makeup of cement remained largely unchanged until the 19th century when British manufacturer Joseph Aspdin created the more modern Portland cement, a mixture manufactured by firing finely ground limestone and clay until the limestone calcined.
In the 20th century, with the growth of industry and urbanization, demand for cement increased. However, a major problem facing the cement industry was its transportation. Cement is an extremely heavy product and for much of the industry’s history, land transportation of the good was cost-ineffective. Many burgeoning cement manufacturers found that cement could not be economically transported beyond 200 to 300 km across land; the amount spent on lengthy road transportation would be more expensive than the cost price. This dilemma limited the cement industry, forcing many companies to stay within localized spheres and capped industry growth.
At least until industry innovators like Alexander Bouri and Charles Bouri stepped onto the scene. In the 1950s, the inability to cost effectively transport cement led to cement shortages throughout the world. With the founding of his family-run business, Seament, Alexander Bouri had the foresight to tackle this ongoing issue of shipping. Seament set about answering and solving the issues of cement shortages, by reengineering the transportation of cement. Seament chose to do this switching to bulk shipping over water.
Alexander Bouri’s Seament and companies like it were able to solve industry shortages by not only providing the necessary port services for bulk cement transportation, but also by providing high quality manufacturing, floating terminals, and various other shipping services. Floating cement terminals have proved uniquely vital to the growth of the cement industry as they allow for more of the good to be handled at differing receiving ports. This innovation alone solved over 60 critical cement shortage crises around the globe.
Just as it was in the Roman era, so too today can cement be closely tied with the economic development of any given region or nation. Many European countries have doubled, and in some cases, even tripled their cement consumption in just the last twenty five years. In the coming years, those growth statistics are expected to be seen repeated throughout the globe as the cement industry continues to evolve to meet the greater demand. It will continue to grow as new technologies are devloped and implemented.
Mike is a historian who is always fascinated with the developments people have made to build and develop nations.