What Is Cargo?

Susan Grindstaff

Cargo is typically defined as freight that is transported by airplane, ship, or automotive methods. Sometimes freight is moved by railroad, but this method is generally less common. In most cases, shipments consist of boxes or containers filled with material or products being transported from one company to another, however, combined together, person-to-person freight accounts for a substantial portion of worldwide shipping. Most freight shipments are domestic, but because of globalization within business markets, international cargo shipments are also common. For reasons relating to security and product management, shipping containers are often scanned and sampled.

Cargo may be transported on a ship.
Cargo may be transported on a ship.

One of the main considerations when shipping large amounts of freight from one company to another is to have a system in place to be sure the cargo being shipped is exactly what was ordered. This is especially true with international shipments, where freight charges can be expensive and the time involved in returning unsatisfactory product is often excessive. Most businesses use various methods of freight sampling to avoid these problems.

Within the airline industry, baggage handlers are responsible for loading and unloading baggage that is stowed in the airplane's cargo hold.
Within the airline industry, baggage handlers are responsible for loading and unloading baggage that is stowed in the airplane's cargo hold.

Freight sampling typically involves having shipping containers or boxes checked at various points during shipment. These checks are usually performed on random containers, and the results are reported to both the shipper and the receiving party. Larger companies may have their own personnel taking samples, but in many cases, the work is outsourced to private contractors who specialize in the field.

Cargo scanning is typically done by local authorities to verify the contents of packages or containers. The scans are normally performed by officials trained in the use of scanning devices that utilize X-ray and gamma technology. Most of the time, they are able to verify the contents of cargo without having to actually open the packages. If the imaging results do not match the information on file for a particular shipment, the container is typically opened and put through a careful examination.

The large majority of cargo is shipped domestically, often using a combination of air and automotive for shipment and delivery. Some companies that require large periodic cargo shipments often utilize trucking companies for both pickup and delivery services. Companies that ship a great deal of product on a regular basis often have their own fleets of trucks that handle their shipping needs.

In most cases, large international shipments are done by sea transport. This is because the size and weight limitations placed on airfreight make it an impractical and expensive method for companies shipping large quantities of goods. Some international businesses use their own ships to transport merchandise, though it is much more common to contract the services of shipping lines.

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Discussion Comments


Very comprehensive answer. I like that. You could also include the information about the numbers we're dealing with here.

What I mean is, that people rarely think about how the things they buy in stores got there in the first place. Sometimes, they will see a truck arriving to that store and the workers unloading its "cargo." But most of the time, before these goods land in a truck, gigantic and enormous ships will have to bring them either to a port or to an airport.

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