How do merchandise goods get from one place to another? Until the transporters introduced in Star Trek become a reality, businesses must rely on some form of freight transport to get the job done. Shipping typically relies on transport by sea, particularly in global trade, but when referencing the shipper industry it can also pertain to transportation by road, by rail or by plane. For companies that rely on international trade, merchant shipping is often the first and sometimes the only feasible option. More than 100,000 commercial ships worldwide carry cargo across the oceans to every continent (even Antarctica every once in a while). Barges tote bulk cargo on shorter distances via rivers and channels. A list of the largest global container shipping companies would include the Danish conglomerate A.P. Moller-Maersk, the Mediterranean Shipping Company, the French company CMA CGM, and China’s COSCO container lines. When expedience is necessary, as with perishable food items and pharmaceutical transport, air cargo is the fastest alternative available, and usually the most expensive. Rail and truck transport also play their roles, primarily that of the first or last links in an intermodal system that carries freight from its starting point to its final destination. The choice of carrier is only one challenge faced by companies that participate in global shipping; they must negotiate free on-board (FOB) costs, C&F (carriage and freight) insurance, and establish delivery schedules to which carriers must adhere.
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