Currently, maritime transport represents 80% of world trade, with more than 50,000 ships transporting goods. It is known as one of the most traditional and safest means of international trade. Among the main characteristics is its adaptation to different types of goods and its large cargo capacity, which allows transporting heavy goods over long distances at a competitive price compared to air or land transport.
According to the annual publication of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) shipping in 2016 exceeded 10 billion tonnes for the first time in 2017, an increase of 2.1% over the previous year's 9.8 billion tonnes. The key players in shipping are the West and the new Asian economies (Southeast Asia, China, Korea, Persian Gulf countries and India). Similarly, developing countries account for an increasing share of international seaborne trade. In volume terms, they accounted for 60% of goods loaded on ships in 2017.
In Colombia, the increase in oil exports has made it one of the most competitive and dynamic economies in the continent. Due to its geographical location, it is the only country that has coasts on each of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Also, most of its exports are made through the four main seaports; Buenaventura, Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta.
Taking this into account, the transport of goods by sea, although it is the oldest, is still the most relevant in international trade.
Below you will find some features and advantages of this mode of transport.
The evolution of maritime transport
Over the centuries, shipping has evolved according to the needs of international trade and technical development to build larger ships and ports with more efficient facilities.
One of the most important events in the evolution of this industry was the inauguration of the Panama Canal in 1914, which revolutionized maritime routes and eliminated the need for ships to go around the entire South American continent, significantly reducing navigation time and distance. Other important routes in the maritime flow are the Suez Canal, which links the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea, and the Strait of Malacca, which is between the west coast of the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
From the 1970s onwards, there was an increase in international maritime traffic, thanks in part to the appearance of the container, cargo containers that protect goods and facilitate the transshipment of goods. Another factor was the specialization of ships to transport all types of goods.
Types of vessels
In maritime vocabulary, it is common to confuse a boat with a ship, and is that although many do not know, there is a big difference between these two (2) terms. A boat has a concave shaped structure, built with wood or other material that can float on water. On the other hand, the ship is a boat with one or more decks, large size and strength necessary to develop extensive travel and perform certain maritime activities.
Depending on the type of cargo to be transported, whether in bulk (coal, cement, grain, sand, oil, gas) or with containers, there are also different types of vessels. Some of these are:
- Container ships: As the name suggests, these ships are responsible for transporting cargo in standardized containers. It is worth mentioning that this type of ships are responsible for transporting about 52% of maritime trade. The largest container ship in the world is called MOL Triumph, inaugurated on March 14, 2017 in South Korea and with a capacity to transport 20,150 containers.
- BulkCarriers: BulkCarriers are dedicated to the transport of solid cargoes such as grains, cereals or minerals. They are usually large vessels and are divided into different holds and behaviors.
- Reefer vessels: These vessels have refrigeration or freezing equipment and are responsible for transporting perishable cargo such as fruit and fish. They are usually white to reflect the sun's rays and avoid heating the holds and cargo.
- Oil tankers: They are designed to transport crude oil or petroleum products to the refineries where they will be processed. Supertankers can carry up to 500,000 tons of cargo. This amount of volume has benefits for oil companies, but at the same time carries high risks, since in times of accidents, the consequences are catastrophic.
- Roll on - Roll off vessels: Characterized by transporting goods with wheels that are loaded and unloaded on their own or with the use of tractor vehicles. It has a large gate at the front of the vessel that functions as a ramp to raise and lower the goods (vehicles, trucks and other wheeled machinery).
What are the advantages of this mode of transport?
Transporting goods by sea has several advantages compared to other means. Here you can find some of them:
- Storage capacity: Unlike airplanes or trucks, the size of the ships used in maritime transport allows a greater volume of goods and containers to be moved.
- Competitive prices: Ocean freight rates are considered very economical, considering the long distances.
- Vessel Versatility: As mentioned above, the specialization of vessels has allowed the movement of all types of cargoes, from liquids to livestock.
The world of shipping plays a fundamental role in international trade. Its potential to continue to evolve and improve is endless.
We hope this article has been of great help for you to understand the magnitude of this means of transport and all the possibilities it offers.
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