Water transport is the means of conveying goods and people from one place to another through the rivers, seas or oceans by ships, canoes etc. This facilitates international trade between different nations because goods and passengers can be easily transferred.

The ports authority is responsible for providing facilities as well as management of the ports. Ships are very large and can carry heavy and bulky cargoes like cars, trailers, industrial machinery etc.


Types of Water Transport

(a) Inland Water Transport: This is a type of water transport in which goods and people are moved from one place to another through the rivers, canals, creeks and lakes. This type of water transport operates within a nation’s boarders. The rivers must be navigable, e.g. Rivers Niger and Benue etc. Boats, launches, canoes and ferry are some of the means of transportation in inland transport.

(b) Sea Transport: Sea transport ensures that cargoes and people are moved from one country to another. This is associated with seas and oceans. Since one port is connected to another, it aids international trade.

The various means of transportation by sea are: ocean liners (passenger and cargo),  tramp liners, coaster liners and special purpose ship.

1) Ocean Liners: Ocean liners sail through the high seas and oceans in all the continents of the world, e.g. Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans etc. It is divided into: passenger liners and cargo liners and they charge standard rates.

  • Passenger Liners: Passenger liners are ocean liners which convey passengers from one place to another on a definite or specific route. Passenger liners normally move on scheduled timetable. They are luxurious, thereby, passengers derive maximum pleasure. They can also be used to carry mails.
  • Cargo Liners: Cargo liners are ships which carry heavy and bulky goods from one place to another on the high seas and oceans. Cargo liners operate on a specific timetable and they normally run on definite routes. They can also carry few passengers.


Characteristics of Ocean Liners

  • Ocean liners act as passenger liners, passenger-cargo liners, and cargo liners, ranging from say 10,000 to 50,000 gross tonnage or more.
  • They maintain a regular service, i.e. at advertised times between specified ports, and at scheduled freight charges.
  • Their freight charges are normally fixed by the shipping companies themselves.
  • Cargoes may vary from comparatively small but valuable cargoes to the more bulky cargoes of the cargo-liners.


2) Tramp Liners: Tramp liners carry cargoes where they are found and leave when there are sufficient cargoes. Tramp liners have no fixed timetable and do not run along specific routes. They are available for general hire, hence are referred to as cargo water taxis. They may not be luxurious since they carry cargoes. Their charges are not fixed but depend on agreement.


Characteristics of Tramp Liners

  • They are sometimes described as unspecialized general purpose ships.
  • Tramp vessels have no fixed routes or scheduled sailing times.
  • Tramp shipping rates are usually fixed.
  • They do not carry cargoes in parcels but prefer to deal with bulk cargoes.
  • Tramp vessels are frequently employed on a charter basis, i.e. by importers or exporters on either a time or voyage charter.
  • Some of the smaller tramps are particularly useful for visiting small, inadequately equipped ports to collect cargoes of timber, ore, etc.
  • They operate as sea taxis.


3) Coaster Liners: Coaster liners are flat bottom steamers that are used to convey goods along the coast to the main port. They can go through the creeks and rivers easily. Sometimes they are referred to as lighters and tugs. Coaster liners are good for carrying raw materials for firms.



4) Special Purpose Ships: Special purpose ships are specially built for particular cargoes. For instance, in conveying crude oil, specially built tanker ship are used.


Differences between Tramp Liners and Ocean Liners

Tramp Liners

  1. They have no specific routes.
  2. They have no fixed timetable.
  3. They have no fixed rate of charges.
  4. They may not be luxurious.
  5. They handle only cargoes.
  6. They are available for general hire.


Ocean Liners

  1. They have specific routes.
  2. They operate on specific timetable.
  3. They charge standard rate.
  4. Passenger liners are luxurious.
  5. They handle both cargoes and passengers.
  6. They are booked in advance.


Advantages of Water Transport

  1. Suitable for Bulky Goods: Ships are used for carrying heavy and bulky goods, e.g. heavy machinery, from one country to another.
  2. It is Safe: Water transport is very safe for carrying goods and passengers as cases of accidents are rare.
  3. May be Suitable for Perishable Goods: Ships contain refrigerators which can preserve perishable goods, e.g. fish from being spoilt.
  4. It Aids International Trade: Sea transport greatly aids international trade because goods can be moved from one country to another.
  5. Operate on Schedule: Some liners run on schedule and have specific routes, e.g. River Niger or Atlantic route.
  6. It is Very Cheap: Water transport is very cheap as heavy goods are carried over a long distance, e.g. Nigeria to New York, with very cheap charges.
  7. Routes are not Costly: The routes cost nothing because they are natural gift of God.


Disadvantages of Water Transport

  1. Slow Over Long Distance: Sea transport is very slow over long distance. A ship can sail from Nigeria to New York for more than three months.
  2. It is Expensive to Maintain a Ship: The cost of maintaining a ship is very high.
  3. Limited in Scope: Water transport is limited to areas where there are water: rivers, lakes, creeks, oceans or seas.
  4. It is Prone to Perils of Sea: Sea transport is prone to perils of sea, like storm, collision, tempest, etc.
  5. High Cost of Constructing Ports: The cost of constructing and maintaining seaport is very high.
  6. Operations Must be Supplemented by Other Means of Transport: Sea transport requires other means of transportation to supplement delivery of goods.

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