The Vital Role of Maritime Shipping in Global Trade

The Economics of Sea Freight

Shipping by sea is not only a traditional mode of transport but also a cost-efficient one, especially for heavy and non-urgent goods. The advent of containerization in the 1960s revolutionized maritime transport, allowing standardized containers to be used across different shipping modes, facilitating what is known as intermodal or co-modal transportation.

Key Advantages of Sea Shipping:

Cost-Effectiveness: Sea freight is generally more affordable than air freight, particularly for large volumes of goods.
Capacity: Ships can carry vast amounts of cargo, making them suitable for bulk shipments.
Environmental Impact: Sea shipping has a lower carbon footprint per ton-kilometer compared to air freight.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), maritime transport is the lifeline of the global economy, handling over 80% of the world’s trade by volume and more than 70% by value. As of 2021, the global merchant fleet consisted of approximately 98,140 ships, showcasing the sheer scale of this industry.
The Logistics of Shipping

The logistics of shipping encompass the entire process of moving goods, whether by land, air, or sea. Ground transportation plays a crucial role in connecting production centers to ports and airports, and subsequently, to final destinations. In countries with developing infrastructure, such as India, sea transport is often the most viable option due to its cost-effectiveness compared to air and land alternatives.
The Merchant Navy and Global Trade:

Global Fleet: The international merchant fleet, with over 102,194 commercial ships, is pivotal in facilitating 90% of global trade.
Employment: The shipping industry is a significant source of employment, with millions of seafarers and port workers worldwide.

Understanding Shipping Terminology

The term “shipping” originated from the era of wind-powered vessels and has evolved to encompass the transport of cargo of all sizes, including parcels and larger freight. When discussing shipping terms, it’s essential to understand the responsibilities and costs involved:

Free on Board (FOB): The seller delivers the goods to a specified location and is responsible for loading and securing the cargo onto the vessel. The risk transfers from the seller to the buyer once the goods are on board.
Cost, Insurance, and Freight (CIF): The seller pays for the shipping and insurance to the destination port. For example, when shipping a car from the USA at CIF San Francisco, the seller covers the ocean freight and insurance up to the port of San Francisco.