Shipping is the term usually used to represent transportation of goods by sea using ships and other watercrafts. Merchant shipping can be seen as an important aspect of the world’s economy because it carries 90% of international trade with 102,194 commercial ships across the world. Shipping has been the most used means of carrying freight in history.
Though shipping is considered as a slow means of transporting goods, it is also known to be cost effective compared to other modes of transports such as air. It is also known to be the ideal way of transporting heavy loads such as coal and a large number of cars at once. This can be seen as the main reason why most people believed that the industrial revolution mostly took place where navigation or shipping is possible.
Shipping can occur over long distances using a boat, barge or ship through oceans, lakes, along rivers or canals. Though shipping mostly involves the transportation of commercial goods and even food and other aids, its importance is not limited to commercial and humanitarian purposes; shipping can also be used to transport military equipment as in the U.S aircraft carrier ship.
The shipping fleet of a nation is made up of the ships transporting cargoes and passengers that are being operated by civilian crews. According to CIA World Factbook, they were 30,936 merchant ships of at least 1,000 gross register tonnes worldwide in 2005. This number grew to 38,988 in 2010 resulting in a 26% increase after five years.
Merchant shipping is not limited to transportation by sea. It also includes shipping over the river and canal linking inland destinations. An example is the Saint Lawrence Seaway that connects the Great Lakes in Canada and the United States with the Atlantic Oceanic shipping routes.
Ships and Water Crafts
The ships and other watercrafts used for shipping can be differentiated by size or type of cargo as well as by the propulsion. Some smaller crafts make use of internal combustion engines to move its propellers while an inboard water jet is used for jet boats.
Most merchant ships can fall under categories such as Bulk Carrier, Ocean Liner, Ferry and Cable Layer.
Bulk Carrier: These are cargo ships used in transporting bulky items such as ore and grain. Most lakes are even considered to be small for a bulk carrier to float on. Cargo ships can be classified into Tankers that transport liquids such as crude oil, refrigerated ships for the transportation of perishables, Container ships and Roll-on/roll-off ships.
Ocean Liner: These are ships built to withstand rough seas and other adverse conditions in the ocean. They usually have the bigger fuel capacity to cover long journeys.
Ferry: Ferries are widely used as part of the public transport system in most islands and water cities. Most of these ferries have frequent return services, and they can carry passengers, freights in Lorries and railroad cars.
Cable Layer: These are deep-sea vessels used to lay communication, electricity and other cables under the water