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What Is the Shipping Industry?

Container ships have their cargo offloaded by cranes at intermodal terminals.
Freight trains that are pulled by locomotives are often used to move bulk freight and intermodal containers over continents.
Trucks are part of the shipping industry in the sense that they transport goods to and from the shipping yard on land.
The modern shipping industry relies on intermodal containers, which can be transported via sea, land, or air, to move merchandise.
The shipping industry includes several types of businesses that move cargo around the world.
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  • Written By: Keith Koons
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2014
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The shipping industry is made up of several different types of businesses that are responsible for moving cargo around the world. Once a product is made by a manufacturer, one of the final quality control steps is to package it in a way that it can be moved long distances without being damaged. A delivery service then takes that item to a transit hub, and the package is sent by cargo vessel, airplane, or locomotive to a storage facility. From there, the item travels to a regional warehouse or directly to a retailer so the product can be sold to consumers. Along every step of the way, the shipping industry has to monitor and protect the cargo to ensure its value.

Businesses spend hundreds of millions of US dollars (USD) every year to have their inventory moved across the world and into the hands of retail stores. Since shipping accounts for a considerable cost to the eventual consumer, manufacturers are careful to package their products securely so that they can complete the long journey without being harmed. That is why so many products are packed in hard plastic containers and placed inside a box filled with paper, styrofoam, and bubble wrap.

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Once the items are ready to leave the factory, the transportation factor of the shipping industry comes into play. Large trucks and vans pick up the finished products, and they are routed throughout many regions to pick up and drop off cargo. Many consumers fail to realize that a large part of the world's inflation has to do with the petroleum that powers these vehicles.

Eventually the truck drivers reach their initial destination: a shipping yard, a commercial airport, or a train station. This sector of the shipping industry handles intercontinental and overseas transportation, and the carriers are often so large that they contain billions of USD worth of merchandise in a single trip. Once the products reach their distribution area, more trucks and vans are waiting to haul the cargo to warehouses and eventually retail chains.

While it may only take a handful of people to conduct the actual delivery of world consumer goods, much of the work within the shipping industry is done from behind desks in corporate offices. These men and women are responsible for tracking, scheduling, and protecting the world's merchandise while coordinating with thousands of other workers and businesses at the exact same time. It is not easy to make the shipping industry run so smoothly 24 hours per day, but these professionals are tasked with making the entire process work.

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