The Four Major Types of Cargo Transportation

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The Four Major Types of Cargo Transportation

02/01/2024

In an ever-changing global marketplace, numerous businesses have benefitted from the flexibility, and cost-effectiveness that having multiple cargo transportation routes or carriers brings. Depending on your cargo type and final destination, the available combination of ocean, road, rail, or air transportation ensures your cargo will be transported by the most efficient means possible.

Ocean transport
Leading the way in terms of volume and mileage, of course, is sea cargo. According to the International Maritime Organisation, ocean transport accounts for around 90% of the world’s international cargo. There are numerous types of ocean transportation vessels available, including bulk carriers, RORO, and container vessels, ensuring that a variety of cargo and journeys are accounted for.

The largest container vessels are able to carry around 24,000 TEUs, and with more and more traffic moving through the busy sea routes (especially Asia to the US and Asia to Europe), container shipping is the principal method of moving goods between continents. Some of the most important ocean transport lanes are through the Panama and Suez canals, the South and East China Seas, and the Strait of Malacca.

For heavy loads like metals, agricultural products, and automotive parts, there really is no better way to ship your cargo. Equally, foodstuffs and perishable produce can be kept refrigerated during long ocean journeys thanks to temperature-controlled reefer containers.

Did you know ? MSC has one of the largest and most advanced reefer container fleets in the world.


Rail freight
Once unloaded at the dockside, rail freight is one of the most sustainable and reliable ways to move goods over land.

Trains have a significantly greater carrying capacity than trucks, making them a fantastic option to move large volumes of cargo quickly and efficiently. There are several different types of freight trains including boxcars, which takes containers straight from ships at container port hubs like Felixstowe and Southampton.


Road freight
Most goods, whatever they are, will probably end up on a lorry. Road transportation is usually the best way for freight to go on its ‘last mile’ and can often be quicker than other inland transportation methods.

Using road freight transportation methods also offers more flexibility to businesses, as they can quickly re-route or adapt to different circumstances. Equally, as trucks are also easier to track, this can help with overall supply chain management.


Air Cargo
Flying goods has become an increasingly popular method of shipping, and very useful for cargo that must hit a tight delivery deadline.

The most common types of cargo carried by plane include livestock, vehicles, oversized cargo, consumer electronics, and general retail goods. Sensitive commodities like flowers and pharmaceutical products can also be flown.

Cargo plane fleets contain a variety of different aircraft, including the Boeing 747-400 ERF, Boeing 777-200F, Antonov 225 Mriya, and the Airbus 320. The Antonov 225 Mriya is the world’s largest cargo plane, able to hold 250 tonnes – that’s 80 vehicles or an entire train!
The Art of Value: How is Cargo Freight Priced?
The cost of cargo transportation varies between each mode of transport, cargo type, and during different seasonal periods.

Sea cargo
The quoted price will depend on a number of factors, and whether you have opted for a ‘full container load’ (FCL) or ‘less than container load’ (LCL). While LCL is cheaper than FCL, the customers may choose the FCL option in order to guarantee their container holds only their cargo.

Carrier costs for sea cargo will also be affected by many factors. Some freight forwarders will include documentation, haulage, and customs charges, while others will itemise these charges and charge a lower weight rate.

The type and volume of cargo will also make a difference – hazardous cargo is always more expensive, and overweight goods may affect the stability of the vessel and reduce the overall load. Some sea routes will also come with a higher cost if passing through war zones or in waters affected by piracy.


Air cargo
As air carriers charge by volumetric and actual weight, sending cargo by plane can be expensive, especially when fuel costs rise.


Road freight
The price of road freight can be volatile, due to external factors such as rising fuel prices or labour shortages.


Rail freight
A considerable number of aspects are factored into a rail transportation quote, including the distance to be travelled, the type of wagon being used, the weight and type of freight, and the delivery location.

Port terminals can unload containers from ships straight onto freight trains or trucks. Not only does intermodal transportation provide huge benefits in terms of cost effectiveness, fuel efficiency, and sustainability, but it also means that businesses don’t have to worry about arranging different transportation for their goods for separate stages of their journey.

The Distinction Between Cargo and Freight

Generally, if goods are moved by ship or plane, they are known as ‘cargo’; whereas if the items are moved by road or rail overland are referred to as ‘freight’. ‘Air freight’ and ‘sea freight’ are also very common terms but can often have cost implications.

Ask MSC for Advice About Cargo Transportation

Here at MSC we can provide consultation and advice on your cargo shipping requirements, and find solutions where we can help with our range of shipping and logistics services. Contact us today to find out more.

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