Interesting Facts about Modern Maritime Transport

Jan 23, 2023 · 9 mins read ·

Maritime Industry, Shipping & Vessels
drone view of a commercial vessel

The shipping industry may be one of the oldest industries in the world but it continues to contribute tremendously to the current global economy.

With that, shipping is considered one of the most important industries there is as maritime transport makes 90% of the world trade possible.

Maritime transport refers to the transportation of goods, as well as people, by ships over the sea or other navigable waterways.

These global supplies like coal, grain, and oil are transported in bulk using ships that can carry large amounts of cargo, making maritime transport an efficient and cost-effective mode of transport and the backbone of the global supply chain.

With globalization continuing to progress, the demand for maritime transport services is also likely to increase.

With an industry this big, it would be great to look back to its background and history to see where everything started.

You might be surprised to know how maritime transport started with hollowed logs in ancient times and turned into the behemoth ships that we have today.

Read on and we'll share some interesting maritime facts you can use to impress people with!

How modern maritime transport came to be

Maritime transport has a beautiful history as it dates back to ancient times…

  • Early humans used dugout canoes, which were made by hollowing out logs using stone tools, to navigate rivers and coastal waters – they're possibly the ancestors of kayaks.

They were used for transportation and as fishing vessels by ancient cultures around the world, including in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

  • Ancient Egyptians built ships using planks of wood and reeds, and used them to transport goods along the Nile River and the Mediterranean Sea.
  • The Phoenicians, who lived in the Mediterranean region and are known for their maritime prowess, developed a shipbuilding industry.

They used their ships to establish trade networks and colonies throughout the Mediterranean.

  • In the Middle Ages, the Vikings used ships to explore and raid coastal areas.

Italian city-states, at that time, such as Genoa and Venice established trade networks throughout the Mediterranean and beyond.

From the humble start of maritime transport, simple technologies start to spring up and open wider opportunities for the early seafarers…

  • During the Age of Exploration in the 15th and 16th centuries, the newly invented compass and astrolabe allowed seafarers to navigate their ships to the open seas and explore the world.

The compass uses a magnetic needle to indicate the direction of the magnetic north. It was first invented by the Chinese in the 11th century, and later adopted by Arabs and Europeans.

It greatly improved navigation at sea by allowing ships to determine their direction even when visibility was poor.

The astrolabe is an ancient navigation tool that was used to determine a ship's latitude by measuring the angle between the horizon and the North Star.

The astrolabe was used by navigators in the Mediterranean and along the coast of Africa as early as the 4th century.

With the aid of these navigational tools, seafarers gained more confidence in their voyages which led to the discovery of new trade routes.

  • In the 19th century, steam engines revolutionized maritime transport.

Steam ships could travel faster and against wind and current – no more need for sails to catch the wind and to ride the tides – making trade more efficient.

As maritime transport continues to evolve with steam engines, global trade starts to catch up and grow…

  • The opening of the Suez Canal allowed ships to bypass the lengthy and dangerous trip around the southern tip of Africa.

This man-made waterway connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, which significantly shortened the shipping routes between Europe and Asia and greatly increased the efficiency of trade between these regions.

  • In the 20th century, the Panama Canal was officially opened in 1914 and shortened the route for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.

It enabled ships to avoid the dangerous and time-consuming trip around the southern tip of South America.

  • The invention of containerization and the construction of larger ships led to a significant increase in cargo capacity and efficiency.

The first commercial container ship was built in 1956 by a trucking entrepreneur Malcom McLean.

The development of the container ship evidently revolutionized the maritime transport industry, which led to the use of standardized shipping containers that can be easily loaded and unloaded from ships.

This greatly increased the efficiency of cargo handling and allowed ships to carry much larger quantities of goods.

Today, maritime transport continues to evolve with the continuous advances in technology such as automation and digitalization being implemented on ships and in ports.

From the humble dugout canoes in the ancient times, ships have come a long way and have become the gargantuan maritime vessels that we have today.

Ships used in modern maritime transport include cargo ships, tanker ships, cruise ships, bulk carriers, Ro-Ro ships, specialized ships, and many more.

Interesting facts about maritime transport

  • The first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean was the Savannah, which made the journey in 1819.
  • The largest cargo ship currently in service to date is the Ever Alot, which has a capacity of over 24,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units), the first container ship to surpass the mark.
  • In terms of passenger ships, the largest currently in service is the Wonder of the Seas, which measures 1,188 feet (362 m) in length and has a gross tonnage of 236,857 across 18 decks. This ship can accommodate 5,734 passengers at double occupancy, and up to a maximum capacity of 6,988 passengers, as well as a 2,300 crew.
  • The busiest port in the world is the Port of Shanghai in China.
  • Some car carrier ships can handle 7,600 cars at a time. It takes hundreds of freight planes, miles of wagons and a fleet of trucks to transport goods that can fit on a single large ship.
  • 97% of all shipping containers are built in China.
  • A large cargo ship uses 150-250 tons of fuel per day and requires as much fuel as 3,770 smart cars per kilometer.
  • Maritime transport is the least damaging form of commercial transport. And contributes less to marine pollution from human activities compared to land-based industry.

If we piqued your interest and if you want to know more about the shipping industry and how to start your seafarer career, we can definitely help you with that!

Here at Martide, we'll gladly assist you in landing your next seafarer post.

We’re always looking to recruit skilled crew members, like you, on behalf of our maritime industry clients. (Ready when you are!)

Sign up for free and create your profile or log in to your Martide account anytime to start your career with us.

Don’t forget that you can also start your journey and apply for any of our vacancies using our free mobile app.You can download the app from Google Play and from the Apple Store for iPhones and iPads.

Nathaly Seruela

Nathaly Seruela

Former content writer at Martide.

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