Freight transport is the physical process of transporting commodities and merchandise goods and cargo. The term shipping originally referred to transport by sea but in American English, it has been extended to refer to transport by land or air (International English: "carriage") as well. "Logistics", a term borrowed from the military environment, is also used in the same sense.
In 2015, 108 trillion tonne-kilometers were transported worldwide (anticipated to grow by 3.4% per year until 2050 (128 Trillion in 2020)): 70% by sea, 18% by road, 9% by rail, 2% by inland waterways and less than 0.25% by air.
Land or "ground" shipping can be made by train or by truck (British English: lorry). In air and sea shipments, ground transport is required to take the cargo from its place of origin to the airport or seaport and then to its destination because it is not always possible to establish a production facility near ports due to the limited coastlines of countries. Ground transport is typically more affordable than air, but more expensive than sea, especially in developing countries, where inland infrastructure may not be efficient.
Shipment of cargo by trucks, directly from the shipper's place to the destination, is known as a door-to-door shipment, or more formally as multimodal transport. Trucks and trains make deliveries to sea and airports where cargo is moved in bulk.
Much freight transport is done by ships. An individual nation's fleet and the people that crew it are referred to as its merchant navy or merchant marine. Merchant shipping is the lifeblood of the world economy, carrying 90% of international trade with 102,194 commercial ships worldwide. On rivers and canals, barges are often used to carry bulk cargo.
Cargo is transported by air in specialized cargo aircraft and in the luggage compartments of passenger aircraft. Air freight is typically the fastest mode for long-distance freight transport, but it is also the most expensive.
Intermodal freight transport refers to shipments that involve more than one mode. More specifically it usually refers to the use of intermodal shipping containers that are easily transferred between ship, rail, plane and truck.
For example, a shipper works together with both ground and air transportation to ship an item overseas. Intermodal freight transport is used to plan the route and carry out the shipping service from the manufacturer to the door of the recipient.
Common trading terms used in shipping goods internationally include:
Door-to-door shipping is a service provided by many international shipping companies. The quoted price of this service includes all shipping, handling, import and customs duties, making it a hassle-free option for customers to import goods from one jurisdiction to another. This is compared to standard shipping, the price of which typically includes only the expenses incurred by the shipping company in transferring the object from one place to another. Customs fees, import taxes and other tariffs may contribute substantially to this base price before the item ever arrives.