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Sea freight in Europe

Sea freight is recognised as an important component of the global trade and sustainable development.
Sea freight transport (or ocean freight transportation) is closely linked to the inventions and expansion of standardized containers.

Before container shipping became popular, the loading and unloading of items on to a ship required manpower and was a time-consuming task. Also, space could not be efficiently used. Containerised shipping allowed faster handling times, as well as financial savings.

Moreover, the intermodal transport has developed as a consequence of the usage of standardized containers because it allowed the cargo to be moved from one mode of transport to another.

    Sea freight enables and expands the globalization

    Sea freight is closely related to globalization because it has allowed the expansion of the multi-continent supply chains. The low labour and manufacturing costs identified in other markets overseas has led to a shift in the way the goods are made available to consumers. For instance, the products can be now harvested on one continent, sent across the ocean to another continent to be processed and transported further or sent back to the initial place to be consumed. In brief, the processes are no longer carried out in one single location but rather in multiple places, helping to minimize the total costs.

    Sea freight can connect continents and carry heavy cargo at an affordable price. Ocean liners are adapted to types of cargo whose transportation cannot be easily carried out through other means of transport. Ranging from palletized grains, minerals, raw or semi-raw products to dangerous goods, the sea freight transport is the most viable option when delivery times are not critical.

    Therefore, the movement of goods from the labour markets to consumer markets is mainly facilitated by sea freight shipping.

      Sea freight nowadays

      Sea freight, sometimes referred to as waterborne freight, moves about 40% of the cargo in the European Union, without taking into account river freight.

      Waterborne freight is the most versatile transportation option when it comes to carrying a wide range of commodities. However, in order to carry a cargo from the starting line to te destination, many modes of transport are needed. This means that generally, ocean transport is more a component of the multimodal shipping rather than the single means of transport.

      Ocean freight has registered a slight decrease in the volume shipped. Despite the decrease, ocean freight handles more than 60 times the volume handled via air freight, making it more resilient in the shipping industry.

      It is a less publicly visible mode of transport, but it has an essential role in the import and export of food around the world, lowering the costs and linking growers, producers, and consumers.

        Deep sea shipping, short sea shipping, and inland shipping

        Short Sea shipping, named also coastal shipping, covers the transportation of goods on short distances, along the coastal lines between two ports, without crossing the ocean. Smaller vessels are used for short sea shipping and they are usually constructed and optimized for the particular type of commodities and trades. This means that they are not always adjustable to transporting different types of cargos.

        Deep sea shipping is the transportation on long distances, crossing the ocean and performed by bigger vessels which can be adapted to many types of trade goods. These vessels can also serve on smaller distances.

        Inland waterways are the navigable waters inside a country used for transportation. Barges are used to transport the freight through canals, lakes, and rivers.

        When the costs of shortsea shipping and inland waterways shipping are lower than road and rail shipping, they become a substitute for these modes of transportation.

          Why choosing ocean freight?

          • VolatilityVolatility - marine vessels have the capacity to accommodate big masses of goods, of different kinds, shapes, and volumes;
          • Affordable ratesAffordable rates – thanks to the low consumption of fuel, sea freight costs are sometimes 5 times lower than air freight, being the best option to keep the costs down;
          • Time sensitiveIf the delivery is not time sensitive – because ocean freight schedule is vulnerable to weather changes and delays can incur;
          • Hazardous goodsA viable option for shipping hazardous goods – unlike air freight services, some ocean liners are certified for transporting dangerous goods and are also providing temperature controlled containers.

          Sea freight shipping services

          Similar to the terminology used in road freight transportation, the services of containerized sea freight are:
          • Full Container Load (FCL) – a container is intended to a single consignee. Shippers resort to this solution when they need to transport valuable cargo or large loads.
          • Less than Container Load (LCL) – the space in a container is shared among many shippers. Because the costs are split between the shippers, this solution is more convenient and is usually used for shipping smaller loads.
          • Roll on and roll off shipping (RoRo) – this is a method used for transporting cars, motorcycles, and heavy machinery. They are loaded in the hull of the ship and braced.

          The future of sea freight

          The volume of freight shipped by sea is expected to increase as an alternative to air freight.

          When it comes to the future of the sea freight, the main topic is the responsiveness to environmental and energy issues. The International Maritime Organization has set different directions to improve the maritime shipping and the impact it has on communities and waters.

          Apart from fewer carbon emissions and the lower impact that sea freight has on the environment in comparison with the other types of freight transportation, more measures have to be taken to assure environmentally sound transportation.