Short sea shipping
The modern terms short sea shipping, marine highway and motorways of the sea refer to the historical terms coastal trade, coasting trade and coastwise trade, which encompass the movement of cargo and passengers mainly by sea, without directly crossing an ocean. Deep sea shipping, intercontinental shipping or ocean shipping refers to maritime traffic that crosses oceans. While 'short sea shipping' is the European-developed term, 'marine highway' is the American-developed term currently used. Historically, many developed English speaking countries used the British term ‘coasting trade', and its usage remains. The United States maintained this term from their colonial era and began regulating it federally as early as 1793, with the passage of "An act for enrolling and licensing ships and vessels to be employed in the coasting trade and fisheries, and for regulating the same", which passed on 18 February that year. Over the years, it has been codified as 46 U.S.C., Coastwise Trade.
Some short sea ship vessels are small enough to travel inland on inland waterways. Short sea shipping includes the movements of wet and dry bulk cargoes, containers and passengers around the coast (say from Lisbon to Rotterdam or from New Orleans to Philadelphia). Typical ship sizes range from 1000dwt (tonnes deadweight - i.e. the amount of cargo they carry) to 15000dwt with drafts ranging from around 3m to 6m. Typical cargoes include grain, fertilisers, steel, coal, salt, stone, scrap and minerals (all in bulk), oil products (such as diesel oil, kerosene, aviation spirit - all in bulk), containers and passengers. Short sea shipping should not be mistaken with inland navigation.
In Europe, short sea shipping is at the forefront of the European Union's transportation policy. It currently accounts for roughly 40% of all freight moved in Europe. In the US, short sea shipping has yet to be utilized to the extent it is in Europe, but there is some development in the area. New York's Port Inland Distribution Network (PIDN), and the private company Osprey Line are the best examples.
The main advantages promoted for this type of shipping are alleviation of congestion, decrease of air pollution, and overall cost savings to the shipper and a government. Shipping goods by ship (one 4000dwt vessel is equivalent to between 100-200 trucks) is far more efficient and cost-effective than road transport (though the goods, if bound inland, then have to delivered by truck) and is much less prone to theft and damage.
It is noteworthy to realize that while roughly 40% of all freight moved in Europe is classified as Short Sea Shipping the greater percentage of this cargo moves through Europe’s heartland on rivers and not oceans.
In the past decade the term Short Sea Shipping has evolved in a broader sense to include point to point cargo movements on inland waterways as well as inland to ocean ports for transhipment over oceans.
In Europe the main hub of short sea shipping is Rotterdam, also the largest European port, with Antwerp as a second. The Dutch play an important role in this. They have also developed a hybrid vessel, allowed to navigate the sea as well as the Rhine into the Ruhrgebiet. The Dutch and Belgian main waterways (Maas, Waal, Amsterdam-Rhine Canal, Scheldt) locks and bridges are built accordingly. Because of congestion in the larger ports, a number of smaller (container)ports have been developed, and the same goes for the Rhine-ports such as Duisburg and Dortmund in Germany. The ports of Hamburg, Felixstowe (now the largest port in the UK), Le Havre also play major roles.
In Holland the sector has seen rapid growth, aided by a tax enabled investment scheme. The traditional region for building coasters is the province of Groningen, where most wharfs have side-laying ship slides. The major trend is to have bare hulls cheaply made in Poland or Rumania and build them off in Holland.
US and Canada 
Cargo movements on the Great Lakes Seaway System are an excellent example of this broadening of terminology.
The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation of Canada with its U.S. counterpart the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation has for the past several years promoted this concept under its marketing umbrella ‘Hwy H2O’. The concept is intended to utilize existing capacity on the 3,700-kilometer (2,300 mi) St. Lawrence - Great Lakes corridor in harmony with rail and truck modes to reduce overland congestion.
Great Lakes Feeder Lines of Burlington, Ontario, Canada was the first company to operate a ‘fit for purpose’, European built Short Sea Shipping vessel, named the Dutch Runner, on the Great Lakes Seaway System under Canadian flag. During the winter of 2008-2009 she operated a weekly, fixed service between Halifax and St. Pierre et Miquelon carrying Ro-Ro (Roll on - Roll off), break bulk, containers and reefers. The ship can load and unload herself with her two 35 tonne cranes.
Another Canadian firm, Hamilton based McKeil Marine Inc., operates a fleet of ‘tug and barge’ combinations has been moving commodities such as tar, fuels, aluminum ingots and break bulk cargoes for years on the Great Lakes Seaway System. Along the St. Lawrence River, McKeil Marine transports aluminum ingots from a smelter in Quebec to destinations in Ohio, a distance of 944 nautical miles (1,748 km). One barge carries the equivalent of 220 40 ton trucks.
- The Development of Short Sea Shipping in Europe: A Dynamic Alternative in a Sustainable Transport Chain, COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS, Second Two-yearly Progress Report. European Commission, 1999. WORKING DEFINITION OF SHORT SEA SHIPPING: "Short sea shipping’ means the movement of cargo and passengers by sea between ports situated in geographical Europe or between those ports and ports situated in non-European countries having a coastline on the enclosed seas bordering Europe. Short sea shipping includes domestic and international maritime transport, including feeder services (Feeder services form a short sea network between ports in order for the freight (usually containers) to be consolidated or redistributed to or from a deep-sea service in one of these ports (hub-port)), along the coast and to and from the islands, rivers and lakes. The concept of short sea shipping also extends to maritime transport between the Member States of the Union and Norway and Iceland and other States on the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean."
- Mary R. Brooks, LIBERALIZATION IN MARITIME TRANSPORT, INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORT FORUM, Forum Paper 2009-2, Paris 2009
- Chap.VIII—An act for enrolling and licensing ships and vessels to be employed in the coasting trade and fisheries, and for regulating the same., A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 - 1875, Statutes at Large, 2nd Congress, 2nd Session. Library of Congress
- Ch.551, Coastwise Trade