A New Zealand winemaker is using his skills of transformation to help put sea cargo containers at Chile’s main port to good use by making an environmentally friendly hotel out of them.

Called the Wine Box, it’s due to open for business shortly and will have smart accommodations and feature local Chilean wine, as well as a few New Zealand creations.

Chile’s main port in Valparaiso has discarded sea containers across the shoreline. But New Zealander and hotel owner Grant Phelps, living in Chile, saw an opportunity.

“You look toward over the port and you see tens of thousands of containers either on the ships or stacked on the wharfs,” Phelps said.

Phelps has lived most of his life harvesting raw material to make creations. He’s been living as a winemaker in South America for the past 15 years. So when he saw all those big metal boxes lying around, something clicked.

“I thought, ‘How is it that no one has done anything with containers in Valparaiso?’ It’s a port. It’s the main port in Chile. It’s architecturally the most eclectic city probably in South America, and yet nothing has been done with containers.”

Phelps and his partners put together plans and are now building Chile’s first eco-hotel, made up entirely of shipping containers.

The idea itself is not new. US based architect Travis Price recently took 18 sea cargo containers from the Port of Baltimore in Washington, and turned them into low-cost housing for tertiary students.

In Valparaiso, Phelps is breaking new ground. This is something that’s never been done in Chile. He said the containers make for one great hotel, especially in an area prone to earthquakes.

“If you think, containers are seven [feet] high in a ship, so the guy at the bottom [container] has to take 180 tonnes on top of it. So they’re designed to take a tremendous amount of load and heavy and serious conditions in the high seas – a big storm. So in an earthquake, they are going to handle it perfectly.”

The hotel is going up in an area called Cerro Mariposa, or Butterfly Hill. It’s not a tourist destination, but Phelps hopes he can help change that.

He’ll do that by bringing his other passion into the hotel, wine, by serving up some of his company’s signature wines.

They’ll start welcoming guests in May.