Modern ships – large, fast and highly specializedMarine innovations have helped to fuel the growth of maritime freight traffic. The following are significant: SIZE: The average size of ships has increased substantially. Larger vessels reduce the shipping costs per load unit for crew, fuel, demurrage, insurance, servicing and ship maintenance. Port authorities must respond to increasing vessel sizes by expanding port infrastructure (wharfage, transport connections inland) and improving port access (e.g. by deepening fairways). Therefore they too face increasing costs. This can bring the owners – usually the State or local authorities – into financial difficulty: the capital investment is usually funded from the public purse, but the full costs are not passed on to port users.
- SPEED: The average speed of a merchant ship is about 15 knots (1 knot = 1 nautical mile per hour = 1853 metres per hour), or 28 kilometres per hour, the equivalent of about 670 kilometres a day. Newer ships are capable of 25 to 30 knots (45 to 55 kilometres per hour). Marine propulsion has improved considerably since the inven- tion of the screw propeller, particularly the double propeller. This development reached its peak in the 1970s. Achieving even higher speeds is a challenge and is likely to prove extremely expensive. Experts are therefore predicting only limited increases to average commercial shipping speeds.
General cargo ship
8.3 > Most of the global merchant fleet consists of five types of ships: general cargo vessels such as heavy load carriers and multi-purpose vessels that transport machinery parts and even yachts; oil tankers; bulk carriers, which are loaded through hatchways; passenger liners, such as cruise ships; and container ships. All other types of vessels, such as vehicle transporters, together account for only about 5 per cent.
- DESIGN: Ship design has changed radically – from timber to steel to vessels built mainly of aluminium and composite materials. Design innovations were aimed at dramatically reducing fuel consumption and construction costs while increasing safety at the same time.
SPECIALIZATION: Specialization in the shipbuilding industry has brought massive changes to ocean shipping. Special ships have increasingly been constructed for different types of freight:
- Tankers for crude oil, petroleum products, chemicals, liquid gas and fruit juice concentrate;
- Bulk carriers for bulk goods such as ores, coal, grain;
- Bulk carriers for large-volume unit loads such as motor vehicles and iron;
- Refrigerated vessels (reefers) for fruit from the Southern Hemisphere;;
- General cargo ships;
- Container ships, which are increasingly taking on the tasks of general cargo ships on long-haul routes;
- Ferries for shipping trucks as well as roll-on/roll-off (Ro-Ro) ships, which carry articulated lorries to drive the cargo onto the ship. These two are taking over the tasks of general cargo vessels on short-haul routes.
- The global recession in 2008/2009 triggered a massive slump in world trade and, accordingly, shipping. Following a modest rise of nearly 3 per cent in 2008 – trade nosedived by about 14 per cent in 2009. Freight rates fell to historic lows on many sub-markets. As at the beginning of 2009 about 9 per cent of bulk carriers worldwide lay idle, unutilized, in ports, this capacity is coming back only slowly to the market in the 2010 recovery. >