International ocean transportation refers to moving products and passengers through sea vessels on voyages. International ocean transportation occurs partly or wholly on seas and oceans. International ocean transportation has existed since ancient times as it entailed the movement of people from one geographic location to another, especially in the European region. In international logistics, international ocean transportation assists in transporting ocean freight in several countries. It has made transporting goods from one country to another very easy. Highly sophisticated water vessels are used to transport goods across different continents. However, maritime shipping is quite slow as it depends on several factors, like ocean waves, types of ships, international maritime clearances, and types of goods transported. The major types of ocean transport are bulk carriers, container ships, tankers, general cargo ships, and barges. Maritime transportation ensures that international traders conduct their activities efficiently due to its capacity to transport large cargo and lower costs than other transport forms. For instance, airplanes can only carry certain volumes of goods and cannot carry extremely bulky goods. However, in ocean transportation, a particular ship can carry several containers, packages, and passengers at the same time. Some basic features of international ocean transportation are its versatility, large capacity, and high competitiveness. In international ocean transportation, the ships must identify with their countries of origin by displaying the flag carrier specific to a country to avoid issues with international maritime boundaries. This paper will provide a rough draft of international transportation, and its history, examine the factors promoting international ocean transportation, explain its benefits, limitations, challenges, and controversies, and assess the influence of current events and global logistics on international ocean transportation.
History of International Ocean Transportation
A high rate of international trade is conducted through ships. Without ocean transportation, several raw materials and finished products would not be sold across countries. It implies that the world would have been less developed without maritime transportation. People transport huge cargo by sea due to its low costs and huge quantities of merchandise transported. Most economic and industrial development of nations depends on international trade, primarily through maritime transport. For instance, the people who built the transcontinental railroad in the United States were primarily Chinese workers (Jopanda, 2020). They traveled to the United States by water and provided cheap labor to the US government in its quest to build the railroad. Had there been no water transport, the development of the United States would have been greatly delayed. This example shows a part of the history of maritime transportation and how it is key to economic growth and development. The history of international ocean transportation starts from ancient times. Couper (2020) explains that maritime transportation has existed since 3500 BC. It entailed transporting small loads and a few sailors through the coastal routes (Couper, 2020). Technological advancement and cargo volume increase necessitated marine transport improvements in the following years. The ancient people built ships that could navigate rivers and seas. Ships have become effective and efficient means of transport over the years that have necessitated the construction of ports to support larger ships and enhance global connection. Western countries commenced most ship development and promoted marine transportation in the 17th century. Ojala & Tenold (2017) assert that Europe has been more stable in global shipping in the past 50 years. However, Asian countries have recently been taking the mantle and developing their ocean transportation networks due to improved global trade networks with other countries. For instance, China is growing into an economic hub that exports several products to consumers across all continents. The country relies on ocean transportation to avail the containers of products to their end consumers in different countries.
Factors promoting international ocean transportation
Different factors currently affect global ocean transportation. One of the factors that have promoted international ocean transportation is globalization. Globalization explains how technology and trade have made different countries interconnect and become interdependent. Globalization has increased international trade opportunities across different nations. Trade between different countries is a major driving force for globalization. With the improvement in international trade, exporters and importers have found the need to transport their shipments by water (Hulme, 2021). Most of these shipments are bulky and heavy and cannot be transported by air or road. Besides, road networks cannot connect different nations connected by large water bodies. Therefore, the only means of transportation apart from air is maritime transportation. For instance, the containerization business has improved over the past years, thus, enhancing maritime transport. Secondly, digitization and blockchain-based technology applications have enhanced international ocean transportation. Yang (2019) explains that blockchain technology has improved the success of the maritime shipping supply chain. Blockchain improves the efficiency of the ocean transportation industry. For instance, it minimizes workloads and makes schedules better. Blockchain enhances the efficiency of international ocean transportation differently. It reduces the manual workloads that people have to undertake, enhances access to different schedules, and makes payments more secure and swift. Blockchain makes traders complete their transactions promptly and make international air transportation swift. The other factors that have promoted maritime shipping are government and political agreements and the high costs involved in other forms of transport. Wu et al. (2020) explain that the political atmosphere is essential for enhancing sustainability in international shipping. The sustainability created by an efficient political atmosphere helps promote maritime activities across different countries. Every country undertaking international trade should create a good trading atmosphere for their companies to enhance the secure movement of goods and services. For instance, they must secure their maritime borders to enhance the security of ships transporting goods and services.
Benefits of international ocean transportation
International transportation benefits the entire world in different ways. One of the benefits of international ocean transportation is that it promotes international relationships between different countries. International harmony is vital in the co-existence of different countries (Abrahamsson, 2019). By carrying out international trade, businesses create better relationships with each other that translate to better relationships between different countries. Besides, international ocean transportation helps transport large cargo volumes at lower costs. For instance, freight forwarders can consolidate different consignments and transport them as single units, thereby minimizing costs. Currently, bigger and more modern ships play their routes between the manufacturing nations and the intended markets in other countries.
Transporting huge and heavy cargo is only possible through international water transportation. Maritime transportation also helps transport shipping containers that can be further used for rail or road transportation. Ships can transport empty containers that traders can use to transport their products, such as roads and rails. Besides, the full containers with products do not need to be offloaded before being transported again. They can be loaded on other means of transport like trucks and trains and transported to the final customers. Therefore, ocean transportation bridges the shipping of the products from their origins to the end consumers. International ocean transportation ensures that there is even distribution of benefits of trade as a result of its large capacity as compared to the other forms of transport like air transport that cannot transport bulky cargo. It implies that maritime transportation is the backbone of the global economy and international trade. A huge volume of international trade is conducted by sea, and its growing importance is felt in developing countries that rely on international shipments. For instance, most African countries receive cargo from developed nations like China and the USA, and other nations to promote trade within their boundaries.
Limitations and Challenges of international ocean transportation
One of the major challenges of maritime transportation is its inflexibility. The routes and timetables of international ocean transportation are often inflexible. Therefore, tracking the progress of the goods is usually a hard task in the case of inflexibility. The traders face many issues and might lose their patience when tracking shipments that are transported through ocean transportation. Another limitation of international ocean transportation is the nature of accidents that happen. Water accidents are usually traumatizing and can result in serious losses and deaths. It implies that traders cannot use international ocean transportation to ship perishable or urgent products. For instance, ships can delay in some ports due to non-clearance and fail to meet the delivery timelines of the products.
Controversies Facing International Ocean Transportation
There exist different controversies around international ocean transportation. One of the controversies is piracy at sea. Piracy at sea is a major issue since it makes traders undergo losses and inhibit international relationships between different countries. Piracy hinders the relationships between countries and can make countries have full-time wrangles that expand to their allies (Fuchs, 2020). Traders can also lose their goods through piracy or pat with a lot of money paying for ransom requests by the pirates. Another major issue is oil spillage. Oil spillage occurs in oil tanker disasters, oil spills from ships, and offshore oil disasters. Millions of tons of oil are transported by tankers in seas.
Human errors can occur and cause unpredictable oil spills that are costly to traders and the physical and social environment. Securing cargo at sea is also a major controversy in maritime transportation. Security of shipments matters a lot in any form of transportation. Due to the slow nature of this form of transport and the fact that ships dock in different ports, the security of the cargo is always in jeopardy (Fuchs, 2020). Political interference with port operations is another major controversy in international ocean transportation. Political interference affects port operations which, in turn, complicates the operations of water vessels in the countries. Inadequate port infrastructure is also another major controversy impacting ocean transportation. It causes obstacles to effective port operations and utilization. Sea transport requires the availability of different port facilities to minimize congestion and enhance good handling and storage facilities to encourage the security and efficiency of port operations. It is a major controversy in developing countries that causes several issues in the ports and causes other developed countries to dictate the operations of the developing countries. The global COVID-19 pandemic also jeopardized port operations. The pandemic was a huge detriment to the operations of sea shipping activities from one country to another due to the safety measures put in place (Cullinane & Haralambides, 2021).
Influence of current events and global politics on international ocean transportation
Global politics has a huge influence on international shipping. The current business atmosphere is very fluid. Even though traders can plan and lay out the best logistics and shipping activities, unforeseeable factors in the external environment can derail the activities. Politics can cause these unforeseeable activities in the external environment (Wu et al., 2020). For instance, wars and conflicts among countries can severely derail international ocean transportation. The ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia has derailed international water transportation and air transport in Eastern Europe. It has damaged the relationships between the allies between the two countries and minimized international trade among the countries, thus, minimizing international air transportation (Mardones, 2023). Protectionist policies in different countries also severely restrict trade among countries, which can hamper maritime activities negatively. Protectionism taxes imported products, thus, pushing consumers to purchase domestic products. It inhibits international trade between countries and affects international ocean transportation negatively (Wu et al., 2020). Different regulations also negatively affect the shipping industry. The use of blockchain technology in international trade also enhances maritime shipping activities. It improves the processes and ensures end-to-end visibility of the exports and imports.
This paper analyzed different pieces of information regarding international ocean transportation. Without ocean transportation, most international trade activities would not exist. A majority of international trade activities take place through maritime transportation. This paper examined the history of maritime transportation, factors that support it, benefits, challenges, controversies, and current trends and impacts of politics on it. This history of international ocean transportation spans from ancient times. The increase in international trade and the advent of technology has enhanced international trade, necessitating international ocean transportation. International ocean transportation enhances international relationships among countries, thus, enhancing international harmony. However, traders must be wary of the challenges and controversies affecting international ocean transportation to mitigate their impacts.
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