The global economy is dependent on the transportation of goods and commodities across oceans, in the air, and over railways and highways. The never ending flow of raw materials and finished products in generally out of sight and far from the attention of the common person, however our lives would be completely different if not for the necessities and conveniences made possible by the international shipping industry.
The shipping industry makes both domestic and global manufacturing and transportation possible, through the movement of raw materials, commodities, and finished products, while simultaneously providing for the delivery of goods directly to consumers. To be clear, there are a large variety of commercial transport methods to be found within the shipping industry. The types of methods include bulk transport of commodities in rail cars to highly specialized “inter-modal” container shipping. Currently, there are four major modes of transport that exist in this industry: maritime, air, rail, and freight (trucking).
The shipping industry is one of the largest and most diverse industries in the world. The global shipping industry is a small sub-category of the $9 trillion global trade market for goods and services. The United States shipping industry for example, encompassing the four major modes of shipping transport and associated logistics, totaled $1.3 trillion in 2012, making up 8.5 percent of the domestic gross national product [United State Department of Commerce]. Moreover, and not to be discounted, the industry is a significant employer. In fact, the freight segment alone employs 3 million people in the United States.
For you to invest in the shipping industry it is imperative that you have a general understanding of how the shipping industry works. Marine shipping in particular takes place on a variety of different vessels: general cargo ships, container ships, bulk carriers, and tankers. General cargo ships, as you can tell from their name, carry a wide assortment of items loaded on pallets. Container ships, on the other hand, carry rows of uniform steel containers loaded with materials and goods that get stacked on one another. Bulk shippers primarily convey commodities in large amounts, such as iron ore, coal, grain, and forest products. Finally, tankers carry crude oil, chemicals, and other liquid cargo (including refined petroleum products).
When it comes to transporting consumer goods, the container shipping industry is especially noted for its efficiency. Amazingly, the cost to ship a kilogram of coffee from Thailand to the United Kingdom is an astonishingly low $0.15. Because of this low cost and high efficiency those investors looking for an alternative investment should keep a sharp eye out for opportunities to invest in containers.