Maritime transport

Maritime transport

What is maritime transport?

refers to a means of transport where goods (or people) are transported via sea routes. In some cases, can encompass pre- and post-shipping activities.

For centuries, mankind has used waterways to transport merchandise and people. As such, owes its evolution to the development of international trade and to the ever-growing exchange of goods between countries. By definition, is actually international (except when sailing along the coasts of a same country). Nowadays, is the main means of transport used to ship raw materials (oil, coal, cereals, etc.) over long distances.

The creation of maritime containers in the middle of the 1960s vastly encouraged the development of . These standardized boxes pile one on top of the other, and can transport all sorts of goods, with quite easy handling. Maritime containers have other advantages, in that they limit the risk damage, breakage and theft (the goods are not visible from the outside), and reduce transport costs.

It should be noted that the race to gigantism over the last few years (with ships able to transport more and more goods) has slowed somewhat. Ship-owners are having trouble filling their vessels, and accessing the different trade ports worldwide.

Specificities of maritime transport

is an appealing means of transport, thanks to:

  • Its transport capacity: several hundred tons of goods can be transported on a single ship;

  • Its permanent activity: out at sea, nothing or practically nothing can stop vessel traffic.

However, suffers from fairly slow movement (between 30 and 50 km/h for most vessels). It therefore entails much longer delivery lead times than road or air channels.

There are two main offers available: demand responsive transport (also known as tramping) and liner transportation. The first is when a request triggers the search for a ship to transport goods. The second is when the exporter selects a liner transportation offer with a set itinerary and frequent ports of call, and shares the vessel with other exporters.

Examples and practical applications

In practice, routes fit in with the geography of international trade. We therefore see long maritime routes between the Middle East and Africa, and America, Europe and the Far East. It all depends on the journey between the exporting country and the importing country.

stakeholders generally have a fleet made up of:

  • Versatile cargo;

  • Container carriers;

  • Barge carriers;

  • Bulk carriers;

  • Fuel carriers;

  • Chemical carriers.

involves a whole plethora of professionals, including:

  • Ship-owners;

  • Shipping agents;

  • Transport commissioners;

  • Ship chandlers;

  • Maritime brokers.

Maritime transport in figures

  • alone represents 90% of all merchandise trading worldwide.

  • The French fleet counts 230 transport vessels (goods and people), sailing under the French flag.

  • The of goods from French ports (Dunkirk, Le Havre, Marseille, etc.) represents over 360 million tons.

  • is responsible for about 3% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.


Regulatory cornerstones

  • Brussels Convention dated 25 August 1924

  • Hamburg Rules dated 31 March 1978