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Container ships, San Francisco Bay.

Shipping is the transportation of goods and cargo. Over 90% of world trade is carried by the international shipping industry, and without shipping the import and export of goods on the scale necessary for the modern world would not be possible.[1] In 2003, the international shipping industry transported 6.2 billion tonnes of cargo.[2] The British Chamber of Shipping asserts that there are around 50,000 merchant ships trading internationally, transporting every kind of cargo, registered in over 150 nations, and manned by over a million seafarers of virtually every nationality.[3]

Types of vessel in the world merchant fleet

  • Container ships - These carry most of the world's manufactured goods and products, usually through scheduled liner services.
  • Bulk carriers - These transport raw materials such as iron ore, grain, fertilizers and coal.
  • Tankers - These transport crude oil, chemicals and petroleum products.
  • Ferries and Cruise ships - Ferries perform short journeys, carrying a combination of passengers, cars and commercial vehicles, while cruise ships operate as "floating hotels".
  • Combination Passenger and Cargo Ships - These must have a capacity for 13 or more passengers.[4]
  • Specialist vessels - These include anchor handling and supply vessels for the offshore oil industry, salvage tugs, ice breakers and research vessels.

See also


  1. British Chamber of Shipping British Shipping Accessed July 12, 2007
  2. Clarkson Research Studies The Tramp Shipping Market[1] Accessed July 12, 2007
  3. British Chamber of Shipping op cit
  4. U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration Ships Glossary Accessed July 12, 2007