Written by Hariesh Manaadiar
To the uninitiated (which included me at one stage), these industries are same or similar and it might come across that there is no difference between Maritime, Shipping, Freight, Logistics and Supply Chain ..
But once you are involved in the business or know about these businesses, you will very soon understand that these are very different industries with different workings, assets, architecture, requiring very different sets of qualifications, experience, expertise, knowledge and attitudes..
In this article I unpack the difference between Maritime, Shipping, Freight, Logistics and Supply Chain and how it is all connected, starting with some simple definitions of these terms..
It is fair to say that Maritime Transportation has been and still remains the backbone of global trade and has been so since the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Indians, Chinese, Europeans all started sailing and improvising the sailing methods from sailboats, dhows, long boats, dragon boats, steamships to the current ULCVs, VLOCs, VLCCs etc..
Maritime transportation is a derived demand whose main purpose is to support trade, business and commerce – whether global or domestic, whether cargo or people..
An estimated 89.5% of global trade is carried by sea.. As per UNCTAD figures, in 2016, world seaborne trade reached a volume of 10.3 billion tons with a predicted expansion of 3.2% between 2017 and 2022..
Not just in terms of ownership, the Maritime industry also provides employment for an estimated 1.65 million seafarers working in the global merchant fleet across the world..
Here are a few stats for you to think of, about the Maritime Industry (all stats shared from UNCTAD)..
As briefly defined above, Shipping is the act of carriage of cargo from point A to point using the ships which falls under the Maritime industry..
Cargoes are carried by various types of ships all around the world..
All these ships are operated by shipping lines for commercial gain.. A lot of these ships are owned by the shipping lines operating them and a lot of them are chartered by the shipping lines from the ship owners..
These shipping lines may be operating a liner service or a tramp service.. On the liner service the majority of the business is handled by container shipping lines..
There are many container shipping lines operating “shipping services” around the various trade lanes in the world, and the Top 50 shipping lines around the world derived from Alphaliner are as below..
As you can see, some shipping lines are much bigger than the others.. What is interesting and scary to an extent is that most of the bigger ones are in global alliances and with the recent commencement of the ONE network, these container lines in the alliances account for around 80.7% of the global container shipping market share..
The lines in these alliances come from within the Top 15 of the above Top 50 which means the other 35 lines share 19.3% of the global container shipping market..
Well anyway, shipping includes (but not restricted to) activities as below :
A typical shipping line or shipping agency office have various departments such as planning, marketing, sales, container department, vessel operations, documentation, finance, administration, procurement etc.
Shipping involves planning and identifying the most profitable trade routes around the world, the volume of cargo available on these routes, the number of ships that must be employed on these routes, the ports that this service must call in order to maximise business, the transit days that a ship will take for a round trip, the cost per voyage including operational costs, port costs, fuel costs, the man power required etc for each voyage……………………………… phew, am out of breath even writing about the processes involved..
Many of us in the business relate to freight as “money”.. Freight is what the entire global trade revolves around, but also has a different meaning to money..
In simple terms, FREIGHT refers to CARGO that is carried by a carrier (ship, road, rail, air) in exchange for commercial gain..
In the context of waterborne freight, freight refers to the cargo that is carried using the shipping services offered by the shipping lines using the ships which falls under the Maritime industry..
There are various types of cargoes that are shipped around the world..
Dry Bulk, which covers five major bulk commodities (iron ore, coal, grain, bauxite and alumina, phosphate rock), minor bulks (forest products and the like), Containerised Cargo, General Cargo/Break Bulk accounts for about 70.2 per cent of global trade and Wet Bulk such as tanker cargo (crude oil, petroleum products and gas) of about 29.8% accounts for the balance..
If you notice, bulk and break bulk is shown separately (although as part of dry cargo) because there is a discernible difference between bulk and break bulk..
Freight may be carried in different parcel sizes ranging from 500 gms using a bicycle courier to more than 400,000 tons using a Valemax ship..
Of course different freight types have different characteristics and susceptible to different types of cargo damage and needs expert handling in all cases..
The term logistics is said to have originated from the military and is said to have been initially used to define troop and equipment movement in the various areas of military operations..
Logistics is the process involved in getting the cargo from the manufacturer’s warehouse, point of origin, mine site, farm etc to the receiver’s warehouse, door, store etc..
The process of logistics actually begins way before the actual shipment takes place as it involves discussing and deciding on the delivery schedules suitable to both the buyer and the seller..
Once these are decided, then the logistics services provider needs to decide on the best method of moving the cargo from the seller’s door to the receiver’s door..
A LSP (Logistics Services Provider) should have the expertise to choose the best solution for the movement of the cargo.. Cargo is moved using road, rail, air and sea and each of these modes of transport have their own peculiarities and characteristics..
Air freight may be quicker than sea freight, but much more expensive.. Rail freight may offer more reliable transit times and schedules than road freight and may also be better for the environment.. Road freight has the capability to offer complete door-to-door service and can be considered as one of the more economical means of transport.
The planning, implementation and execution of the various aspects involving the movement of cargo such as materials, services, information, shipping, documentation, scheduling, tracking and delivery is the main function of logistics..
Supply Chain is the whole granddaddy process comprising of all aspects in a product cycle, for example from picking of the fruit at a farm in Point A to delivering the fruit to the shelf at a store in Point B using all of the above mentioned industries..
Supply chain involves a network of suppliers, transporters, warehouses, distribution centres, shipping lines, logistics services providers all working together from the creation and sale of a product till its delivery to you and me..
Supply chain management is the management of all the supply chain activities in developing and running the supply chain as effectively and efficiently as possible..
This management may involve product development, sourcing, production, logistics, and all the system required to coordinate and delivery these activities..
As you can see, there is a vast difference between Maritime, Shipping, Freight, Logistics and Supply Chain and I haven’t even covered the other related industries such as Ports, Terminals, ICDs etc..
There are different career opportunities in maritime, shipping, freight, logistics and supply chain and each of them requires different qualifications, skill sets, expertise and experience..