The IICL was established in 1971, as containerization was just emerging as a transportation system. With the experience gained with first generation of ships and containers, it became apparent that safety and equipment quality were major components of the system. The IICL was instrumental in the development of the International Convention for Safe Containers (CSC), the international agreement for maintaining containers in safe condition, the Approved Continuous Examination Programmes (ACEP), and of the Harmonized Interpretation of the CSC with the International Maritime Organization. In the United States, the Institute worked with the U.S. State Department and Coast Guard in formulating the CSC regulations and the U.S. Safe Container Act that implemented the convention.
Through the Tax and Legal Committee, IICL worked closely with the U.S. Treasury in preparation of the Model Double Taxation Treaty that seeks to avoid potential multiple taxation of containers in many countries. The Committee has dealt with customs issues around the world to ensure that containers continue to move freely as an instrument of international trade. This activity has included monitoring developments under the Customs Conventions on Containers (1956 and 1972) and regulations in the U.S., the E.U. and other countries.
IICL has taken a leadership role in the container standards activities of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and its national affiliates, most recently in development and maintenance of codes used in electronic and transmission of maintenance and repair of containers. The Institute enjoys consultative status in the IMO, the UN Economic and Social Council and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).