Benefits of Short Sea Shipping

Companies need to ship large amounts of goods as cheaply and quickly as possible to stay competitive in a growing and connected world economy.

Because of the congestion of roads and the environmental strain caused by land transportation, alternative eco-friendly and cost-effective forms of transport are needed. This has led to short sea shipping being regarded as a safer and more practical method of transportation.

Short sea shipping is a dynamic form of sea transportation in which distributors benefit from low-cost effective transportation. It also provides a reliable service for consumers, and diminishes traffic and environmental hazards.

What is Short Sea Shipping?

Short sea shipping today refers to the movement of cargo or passengers by sea along the coastal shores without crossing main seas or oceans. Short sea shipping is frequently contrasted with deep sea shipping, also known as intercontinental shipping or ocean shipping, which refers to maritime traffic that crosses oceans.

Historically, English-speaking countries used the term ‘coastal trade’ to refer to short sea shipping, but it is also commonly referred to as ‘marine highway’ in the United States. These terms show how waterways are used to provide integrated and competitive services for moving freight to final destinations.

In Europe, short sea shipping is at the forefront of the European Union’s transportation policy. Nowadays, EU policymakers have put short sea coastal shipping, along with rail and highway freight development, on their main transportation agenda.

Short sea shipping currently accounts for roughly 40% of all freight moved in Europe. In fact, if one were to look at the experiences of other European countries, such as Spain, Italy, Norway and Finland, one notes a number of short sea shipping initiatives that were financed in part or in full by EU funds.

What are the advantages of short sea shipping?

Short sea shipping has a positive effect on two main ways. Firstly, it is ideal for transferring imports from large ports to smaller regional locations at lower costs. Secondly, short sea vessels can move goods between coastal cities in the same manner as highways and railways. However, there are more reasons why short sea shipping should be given more prominence over regular land transportation.

The use of short sea shipping is an effective way of mitigating surface transportation problems by reducing road congestion. Although popular in Europe, short-sea shipping remains severely underutilized in North America and other regions of the world, despite its potential to offer cost-effective services.

Research shows that one small vessel of about 400 twenty-foot equivalent units eliminates approximately 400 trucks from a highway, making this method considerably more cost-effective. Furthermore, together with its logistical benefits, this mode of transportation provides an attractive alternative for shippers that want to reduce their carbon footprint and fuel costs.

Short sea shipping also allows for the consolidation of multiple truck shipments onto one vessel, many of which are now able to run on low-sulfur diesel fuel. While a truck can move one ton of freight 155 miles on one gallon of diesel, a typical barge or short sea vessel can move one ton of cargo 576 miles with the same amount of fuel.

Essentially, short sea shipping offers an environmentally sustainable way to respond to continued growth in trade, consumption, and shipping. In addition, short sea shipping does not require investment in extensive fixed infrastructure, aside from ports.

A more sustainable transport solution

Short sea shipping offers the possibility of a more sustainable transport solution. This method of transport offers many benefits that no other mode of transport provides, especially by minimising the environmental impact of transporting large volumes of cargo.

While countries within EU have taken great leaps forward to implement this method of transport, the efforts by other countries are far from satisfactory. Water, especially along the coastlines, offers a natural and inexpensive solution to many congestion problems that are being faced today.

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