If you are in the shipping business or want to understand it, here is an overview from industry magnate Victor Restis that may be very helpful.
Almost every product we buy today has shipped to us somewhere along its journey from factory to store shelf. Our clothes, cars, books, cell phones, and food have all likely traveled by truck, train, or ship at one point or another.
While we may not think about all of the transportation required to get us these products, the global shipping industry plays a critical role in our daily lives. It brings together producers and consumers from across the globe and serves as an essential part of international trade.
The Basics of Shipping
The most common way to ship goods is ocean-going vessels. However, there are several different types of ships that all play their part in the transportation chain. Containerized shipping, for example, is the most common method of transporting cargo today.
But before you can load your container onto a ship, it must first be transported to one of many ports around the world, often via truck or train. Trucks and trains make up two-thirds of overall bulk shipping and move 80 percent of freight across U.S. highways each year. According to Oceana, a global union represents 1 million seafarers from more than 100 countries who work on board merchant ships and oil tankers at sea. And while rail enjoys a slight edge over other forms of shipping for low and medium-weight cargo, the need to ship bulk and heavy items like cars and steel means that trucks will be around for a while.
Then there is air freight which makes up about one percent of global trade by volume, but its fast pace and competitive price make it an attractive option for businesses who want to get their product from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible.
As Oceana notes, the speed at which containers can now move from ports has increased steadily due to technological advances. For example, it now takes just 18 days on average to ship goods from Shanghai to Rotterdam – a much shorter time than was required even a few years ago. However, the world’s logistics industry also faces challenges to keep up with this increased pace.
Whether the transportation method is by land, air, or sea, though, each mode has its distinct advantages that depend on where your product is being shipped to and from – as well as what it’s made of.
What are the different types of cargo?
Not all goods move around in boxes. Some items simply aren’t suited for containerization because they are too heavy, bulky, or otherwise problematic to fit into a standard shipping container. For example, it can be especially difficult to ship machinery, boats, and other equipment that require special handling. And containers are typically only big enough to hold one large item at a time, meaning that multiple shipments would be required if you’re sending an entire house to a new country.
In cases like these, the transportation method is often chosen by the type of cargo that must be shipped and how it should be handled:
- Bales or rolls of material such as paper and fabrics
- Crude oil and petroleum products
- Cargo with high perishability, including food and flowers
- Heavy equipment such as tractors and bulldozers
Each type of item has its specifications for shipping. The chart below illustrates which types of goods are best suited for each form of transport: