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Water Transport

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           Like road transport, water transport has been around for thousands of years. The first kinds of water transport were probably some types of canoes cut out from tree trunks. Earlier boats and ships relied on being rowed and wind for propulsion, or a combination of both.

            Once a bridge or tunnel is constructed across a body of water, water transport that used to transport passengers and goods across that body of water have been made redundant. Tunnels, such as the Channel Tunnel that connects rail tracks for high – speed trains in Great Britain with those in France, have provided very strong competition for the ferries that connect Dover (Britain) with Calais (France).

            However, water transport has dominated in transport services for centuries on long sea trips until the emergence of air transport. Nowadays, ships have been designed to be much faster to be more competitive. Although relatively slow, modern water or sea transport are significantly less costly to use compared to air transport for carrying a large number of passengers for short inter – island trips and quantities of non – perishable goods in transcontinental routes.

Ferry in New Zealand
bluebridge.jpg
Source: http://www.travelink.co.nz/nz/CookStraitFerries.html

Relatively slow, but still economical and popular

            There are various types of passenger ships designed for different length of routes, passenger or vehicle capacity required, and water conditions. The most common ones, ferries, are commonly used for day – or overnight short sea trips transporting passengers and vehicles. Ferry transport is preferred when constructing a bridge or tunnel is deemed uneconomical. Several cities that have a large network of rivers or other waterways, such as Venice, operate a large number of water buses and taxis that can even compliment the land transport that also operate within the cities. Some ferries are designed to carry the passengers’ vehicles, which are called Roll – on, roll – off (Ro – ro) ferries.

            The more luxurious kinds of passenger ships, used for pleasure than speed, are called cruise ships.  Besides hotel – like rooms, there are also amenities such as a swimming pool, casinos, sports facilities, etc. Some designs are a combination of a Ro – ro ferry and a cruise ship, used for long – distance routes such as those in the Baltic Sea linking Finland, Sweden, Germany, and Estonia.

 

High – Speed Ferries

            The most famous and busiest seaway in the world links Great Britain with several parts of Europe across the English Channel. Although the presence of infrastructure like the Channel Tunnel has provided very strong competition for the ferry services, ferries using conventional technology have been replaced by the much faster hydrofoils and catamarans that are usually constructed from aluminum. These “high – speed” ferries are able to sail up to 60 knots, or more for some, due to the wing – like foils that are installed on the struts below the hull, which enables the hull to raise and out of the water as the ferry’s speed increases.

              Hence, catamarans and other types of hydrofoil ships can be operated safely under almost any sea and weather conditions. High – speed ferries are widely used for mainline ferry services, notably the Stena Line that operates catamarans between the United Kingdom, mainland Europe, and Ireland.

 

Labor – and capital – intensive

            Despite of more sophisticated shipbuilding methods available, shipbuilding remains very much labor – intensive, requiring workers such as steelworker, welders, pipe workers, mechanical fitters, electricians, etc. A proportion of the construction is usually subcontracted, covering installation of air conditioning, hydraulic systems, and painting. Shipbuilding companies that manufacture mainly certain types of ship require significant investment to build another different type of ship since building the new product line in the existing facilities can disrupt the main production flow. Several decades ago, such ships, as well as many other types, used to be made of welded steel, which has been replaced by ABS steel that is more fracture -  tough.

            Due to the nature of shipbuilding, if there are a large number of ship orders from a particular country, it can open a large number of jobs. For every one job directly in the shipyard, about three to five other jobs outside the shipyard, such as steel mills and engine manufacturers, are supported. These factors have made shipbuilding ability of a country as strategic.

            Many decades ago, every industrialized country emphasized shipbuilding as their most strategic industry. Since labor costs there are high, the shipbuilding in relatively large numbers has been gradually shifted to major emerging economies, such as China, due to the countries’ massive investments and low labor costs. Countries that were once superior in their shipbuilding industry now have been reduced to specialized defense contracts and repair work.

Copyright 2007 - Aldi Yuristian