Shipping

Much shipping is done by actual ships. An individual nation's fleet and the people that crew it are referred to as its merchant navy or merchant marine. Merchant shipping is the lifeblood of the world economy, carrying 90% of international trade with 102,194 commercial ships worldwide. On rivers and canals, barges are often used to carry bulk cargo.

Sea transport has been the largest carrier of freight throughout recorded history. Although the importance of sea travel for passengers has decreased due to aviation, it is effective for short trips and pleasure cruises. Transport by water is cheaper than transport by air, despite fluctuating exchange rates and CAF charges to account for such.

Ship transport can be realized over any distance by boat, ship, sailboat or barge, over oceans and lakes, through canals or along rivers. Shipping may be for commerce, recreation or the military purpose. Virtually any material can be moved by water; however, water transport becomes impractical when material delivery is highly time-critical.

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Bulk carriers

Bulk carriers, such as the Sabrina I (seen here), are cargo ships used to transport bulk cargo items such as ore or food staples (rice, grain, etc.) and similar cargo. They can be recognized by the large box-like hatches on their deck, designed to slide outboard for loading. A bulk carrier could be either dry or wet. Most lakes are too small to accommodate bulk ships, but a large fleet of lake freighters has been plying the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway of North America for over a century.

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Container ships

Container ships are cargo ships that carry their entire load in truck-size containers, in a technique called containerization. They form a common means of commercial intermodal freight transport. Informally known as "box boats," they carry the majority of the world's dry cargo. Most container ships are propelled by diesel engines, and have crews of between 10 and 30 people. They generally have a large accommodation block at the stern, directly above the engine room.

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Tankers

Tankers are cargo ships for the transport of fluids, such as crude oil, petroleum products, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), liquefied natural gas (LNG) and chemicals, also vegetable oils, wine and other food - the tanker sector comprises one third of the world tonnage.