What is freight transport?
Freight transport is the movement of goods from one place to another. Common freight includes commercial goods, commodities, and merchandise in bulk.
“The main transport mode for global trade is ocean shipping: around 90% of traded goods are carried over the waves. As such, the oceans provide the main transport arteries for global trade. This comes with opportunities and challenges.
As demand for global freight increases, maritime trade volumes are set to triple (by) 2050,” according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Why are freight transportation services important?
Loggers cutting down trees in the United States do not have their own ships to transport the raw wood to furniture manufacturers in Vietnam, to give just one example. Instead, they send their lumber using a freight transportation service. Freight transportation services take care of the logistics and the management of the shipping lifecycle.
Freight transport management can be complex. Various services help businesses and merchants plan the modes and routes for their freight shipment, managing the goods in transit all the way through to their final destination. A good freight transportation service will also minimize freight damage by knowing the best packaging procedures, proper pallet methods, and accurate freight container labeling to ensure that the shipment is properly processed.
What are the different containers used in maritime freight transport?
Freight transportation services help businesses save money by offering the optimal shipment route for their goods. Depending on a shipment’s load, different types of containers are used.
Shipping containers use exact measurements to maximize space on the ship and to reduce the likelihood of unused cargo space. Containers are typically either 20 or 40 feet long and built to stack on ships like blocks.
- Standard Containers (also called dry containers) – used for most types of cargo and constructed of aluminum or steel. These containers are typically either 20 or 40 feet long, and 8.5 feet tall.
- High Cube Containers – similar to standard containers, they are 9.5-feet tall, providing shippers with more room. High cube containers can usually stack on standard containers.
- Open Top Containers – these containers have a canvas or tarpaulin top, instead of a solid roof. They are used to transport large items, like timber and steel, allowing the merchandise to be loaded from the top.
- Flat Rack Containers – used to ship items or equipment that is too large to fit inside a container, and typically doesn’t have sides. Merchandise is loaded from either above or the side, and secured by lashing it to the bottom. Flat rack containers only have support posts on the ends. Depending on the height of the merchandise in the flat rack, most flat rack containers can be stacked
- Platform Containers – similar to a flat rack container, platform containers don’t have any side or end walls. It’s ideal for shipping merchandise and equipment that won’t fit within a container.
- Reefer Containers – a refrigerated container is used to transport freight that requires temperature control, such as meat, vegetables, and dairy products. The refrigeration unit is connected to the ship’s electrical supply.
In addition to the container type, shippers often have the option to use a partial or full container:
- Less than Container (LCL) – is used for the transport of a small shipment that doesn’t require a full container and the shipper pays only for occupied space.
- Full Container (FCL) – is used for bulk shipments that take up an entire container.
Which freight transport is the best to use: air, land or sea?
Choosing to use freight transportation across air, land, or sea depends on what is being shipped, where it needs to go, and how quickly it needs to get there. Freight transportation services sometimes use a combination of all three to meet their shippers’ needs.
- Air freight transportation is the fastest mode of freight transportation and is therefore used to meet strict deadlines. However, air freight containers are expensive and limited in space and weight. Additionally, uncontrollable weather can greatly impact an air freight transport container, and can delay shipment by days.
- Rail freight transportation is more accessible and cost-effective, especially for large freight containers. They are easier for loading and unloading than air freight transportation, but shipment time is lengthy and should not be used on a tight schedule.
- Road freight transportation is inexpensive and readily available, as it is independent of port schedules, like air and rail freight transport. But it takes a long time and cannot access every area. In some regions affected by storms and hurricanes, truck drivers are forbidden to travel during certain times, sometimes making road freight transportation an unreliable option.
- Maritime freight transportation is by far the most popular/common option and continues to expand, as noted above. It is used for international shipping and offers full, partial and larger container freight shipment at lower costs. However, maritime transportation can be affected by harsh weather.
What to consider when planning freight transport?
While managing freight transport, it is important to cover all risks during a shipment lifecycle. The goods being shipped must be considered in order to assess product damage risks. Considerations include:
- Weight and size of the goods
- Quantity of the inventory
- Nature of the goods: are they liquid, hazardous or fragile?
- High-value goods need security
- Packaging of the goods: are they properly packed and stored on freight loads?
- Destination of the goods: whether they are domestic, national, or international
Freight risk management
To effectively mitigate risks, freight transportation risk management is needed. Risk management utilizes strategies, processes, and tools to eliminate risks in transit. It covers shortage issues, delays, damage to cargo, loss, theft, and inaccurate documentation, and ensures that the proper insurance is used. Implementation of freight transport management includes cargo insurance, hiring logistic experts, and using transportation risk software to plan, monitor, and optimize shipments. Windward uses Maritime AI™ to offer predictive intelligence solutions for maritime freight transportation. Windward’s platform helps mitigate the risks involved in freight transportation with vessel and ocean freight container insights, as well as significantly more accurate ETA predictions.