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What is the maritime transport of goods? This refers to a mode of transport where cargo is moved via sea routes. By definition maritime transport is international with 90% of world trade carried out by the shipping industry.

Importing and exporting goods using international maritime shipping ensures global maintenance, and allows the movement of gas, liquids, and other dangerous commodities. If your business needs to transport large quantities without any immediate deadlines then this shipping option may be the one to choose.

Before you make your decision, you’ll need to factor in the volume of your cargo, the delivery time, transportation charges, and the durability of goods to be transported. See the advantages and disadvantages of maritime transport of goods here…

Advantages of international maritime transport of goods

The advantages of maritime transport of goods include:

  • The cost – which is more affordable when compared to rail, road, or air freight with fewer maintenance expenses
  • It’s the best way to transport bulky goods – heavy items can be moved with ease as ships are suitable to carry machinery and industrial parts unacceptable for air freight
  • Eco-friendliness – consuming less fuel makes sea transportation preferable for many organisations as reducing the carbon footprint becomes increasingly more important
  • Safety guarantees – as maritime security increases and containers are being constructed to be sealed and locked during the journey, cargo loss is significantly reduced
  • Foreign trade contacts – connecting the global trade markets is an essential part of ocean shipping
  • Reduction in duties and VAT – these are much less expensive as they’re calculated as a percentage cost of the total plus the applicable export and import fees
  • Flexibility – smaller shipments can be arranged in a group with other cargo, and bulk cargos fitted into single containers

Disadvantages of sea freight transportation

The main disadvantage is the time it takes to get cargo from one location to the next. It can take weeks to get goods delivered to their final destination. Delays and obstructions on the journey can be caused by adverse weather conditions, resulting in possible damage to your shipment. And basic freight rates can alter due to fuel and currency surcharges.

You may be unable to track your shipment, particularly if routes and timetables need to change. You will have to pay port taxes and duties and bear in mind that proper shipping ports aren’t available in some parts of the world – or they’re not big enough to for larger vessels. This lack of facilities can massively hinder reliable delivery.

If your shipment travels through relatively unchartered territories there’s a slight possibility of raiding by pirates. Although this is a rare occurrence it needs to be considered as losing your entire shipment can be devastating for your business.

To reach its final destination your cargo will also need to be loaded onto a further means of overland transport.

Primary types of ocean shipping

There are basically two types of ocean shipping and these are:

Full container load

The entire consignment will be transported within the container and owned by one individual. The shipping costs in this case will be calculated and charged at a flat rate per full container.

Less than container load

In circumstances where there are not enough goods to fill an entire container, it will be shared with other parties. Here the shippers are charged per cubic meter following arrangements with a consolidator who will try and accommodate the goods.

Types of maritime transport of goods

There are several types of sea transport offered by maritime transport companies and these include:

Cargo ships – ranging in size and having large hydraulic hatches covering the hold. Sometimes these ships have special refrigerated compartments for storing perishable goods

Container ships – with 20-40ft long containers that can be easily loaded and unloaded onto and off the vessel for final transportation by road or rail

Bulk carriers – typically used to transport wood chips, grains, and other materials that are poured directly into the hold

Refrigerated ships – often called Reefers, these ships are used to transport perishable commodities that need temperature-controlled transportation, such as meat, fish, and dairy products

Roll-on/roll-off ships – cargo ships that are designed to carry wheeled cargo such as vehicles, equipped with built-in ramps for driving directly on and off the vessel

Tankers – commonly used for hauling oil or other types of liquids or gases

Barges – cargo container ships will often tow barges behind them in order to increase storage space

A shipping term you may need to be familiar with:

The Automated Manifest System

This is a term used within international maritime shipping –the 150 AMS maritime shipping of goods was created by US customs to gather shipping information. This includes details of cargo, projected departure and arrival times, and release information between ship and rail carrier. For a full glossary of shipping terms, search online and download as necessary.