What is Coastal Shipping?

Nov 28, 2022 · 6 mins read ·

Maritime Industry
vessel moored on coastline

Shipping plays an important role in global trade, however, not all transport of goods happens overseas – that’s where coastal shipping comes into the picture. When we talk about coastal shipping, we refer to the shipping of goods (or in some cases, passengers) within a country.

These goods are transported by small vessels from one port to another within the country’s jurisdiction. Unlike overseas shipping with cargo vessels crossing an ocean, coastal shipping transports freight along the country’s coast and greatly contributes to the country’s domestic trade.

A great number of governments encourage the development of coastal shipping because of its important role to play in the country’s domestic trade as well as in the growth of the country’s foreign trade through the movement of cargo from smaller ports to the nation’s major hubs.

Coastal shipping uses a vessel called a coaster – these are small sized vessels with shallow hulls. Most coasters have drafts with the size between 3 to 6 meters from the keel. Coasters can carry 1,000 to 15,000 deadweight tons.

Coaster vessels are designed and operated in a way so that they will not hit the bottom of the seabed or cause distress in the marine environment. They also mainly consist of cargo holds and stowage areas with minimal crew quarters for only the few required crew members to operate the ship.

If you want to learn more about different types of ships, click here.

However, nowadays, overseas cargo vessels can also be used in coastal shipping and various locations have different load and draft restrictions set by authorities that depend on the depth of the coastal waters as well as the marine life found in the area.

What are the advantages of coastal shipping?

Coastal shipping has many advantages especially over other modes of transport – it has a lower risk to the environment – it can reduce road congestion and fuel consumption through its domestic routes since it decreases the amount of fuel needed to transport.

In addition to saving money on gas, coastal ships don’t require any additional equipment or facilities – they simply need access at sea level to pick up cargo from local ports without much hassle – local ports can receive coastal vessels compared to the large container ships needed to dock in a country’s major port.Furthermore, coastal shipping is a lot more fuel efficient than other forms of transport – the average coast-to-coast journey by ship takes less time than by road or rail. This is because ships don’t have to cross any road hindrances or mountains which saves on fuel costs and reduces travel time.

With this, coastal shipping reduces road congestion since cargo can move through the seas instead of being driven to the location. Plus, cargo on coastal vessels can be easily and quickly loaded and offloaded at local ports, saving companies time and money.

Smaller vessels’ turnaround time are a lot shorter at local ports which makes coastal shipping cost-effective since it brings down the costs for shipping companies.

Since coastal shipping consists of relatively short voyages, it emits less pollutants which has a huge impact on health and environment both locally and globally. We can say that coastal shipping has a lower risk to the environment compared to other vessels.In addition to this, many governments offer incentives to coastal vessel operators for expediting coastal shipping.

What are the disadvantages of coastal shipping?

Coastal shipping is definitely a good way to move cargo, however, it also has its downside.

The cost to operate and maintain the vessels is high, with this, the number of coasters being operated for coastal shipping does not meet the market demand. Also, some cargo shippers also use regular cargo vessels to transport goods whether overseas or to a local port.

(This depends on the local port, though, and whether or not they can accommodate slightly larger vessels, however, smaller ships cannot easily access large ports).

It can also cause a container imbalance at ports – meaning a lot of empty containers are sitting in certain ports and shipping companies are unable to collect and ship them to ports that need the containers. It’s simply a shortage of containers in some ports while others have a great number of empty containers in their location.

What is coastal shipping? Conclusion

We have seen that coastal shipping has a lot of advantages which make it the most suitable transport mode to be used for the transportation of goods from one place to another. It is also eco-friendly and cheaper than other modes of transportation like air, rail and road.

Take note that governments are actually offering incentives to coastal vessel operators because coastal shipping plays an important role in a nation’s domestic and foreign trade.

Coastal transport also uses less fuel and coastal vessels are made to protect the marine environment which is a plus on our book!

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Nathaly Seruela

Nathaly Seruela

Former content writer at Martide.