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The Antwerp Express in front of Blankenese (2013)
Port of Hamburg , between 1890 and 1905
Bremerhaven ports (2012)

Under Marine (until the spelling reform in 1996 and, for example, in traditional company names continue. Shipping ) refers to the use of vessels on inland waters and seas for different purposes, especially for the commercial transportation of persons and goods . The term "shipping" is not to be confused with shipping , ie a trip on a ship .


The Neanderthals' necessity to cross bodies of water led to the invention of various swimming aids. Rafts and dugouts were believed to have been the oldest craft. They made sure that the obstacle water could become a traffic route . Shipping allowed the discovery of foreign lands and trade with them. It has always ensured the exchange of goods and ideas, but also brought about disputes over territorial, economic and military interests. In the course of time, shipping specialized in civil and military areas, in trade and fishing and in shipping-related sectors such as port operations, pilotage and shipbuilding.

Shipping basics

Many states have created the organizational and infrastructural prerequisites to operate shipping from their coasts or on their inland waters. Along with shipping, various shipping-related professions and industries have developed over the years, including shipbuilding.


Fairway buoy

Seamanship is understood to be the skills that a seaman must master in order to operate a ship in practice. In addition to the art of safely moving a ship, this includes special manual skills in dealing with the deck equipment of a ship such as anchor gear, loading gear, hatches, lines, dinghies and much more. Modern technology has made many tasks much easier for the seaman, but this special technique must also be mastered, possibly even under difficult weather conditions. For management personnel at sea, the seamanship also includes crew management.


Navigation is understood as the ability to determine one's own ship's position and to set the course (route) to the destination. Like seamanship, navigation must take into account the conditions of weather and oceanography . In the past, navigation on the high seas was primarily astronomical, and terrestrial navigation near the shore . In the meantime, navigation is mainly based on technical processes such as ECDIS , radar , AIS and GPS . Other systems are Galileo , GLONASS and LORAN-C . However, it is up to the navigator to set a safe course and to monitor that the ship follows this course.

Sea markings and navigation aids are used to ensure safe shipping on the waterways. Barrels and lightships are known as floating nautical signs, lighthouses and beacons as fixed nautical signs. Pilots advise the ship's command so that ships can safely navigate even on unknown and narrow waterways. To do this, the pilots can go on board or advise the ship by radio from a traffic control center with the help of coastal radar chains.

Meteorology and Weather

Knowledge of meteorology , climatology , oceanography and weather is helpful for travel planning . Knowledge of air , temperature , air pressure , airtightness, wind , clouds , fog , water , swell and waves improve the assessment of how the weather will develop in the coming period. There are also weather maps and regular weather reports for the captain . In travel areas such as the tropics or the polar region, there are special conditions that must be taken into account. Extreme weather events such as thunderstorms , storms , hurricanes , waterspouts or tornadoes can lead to changes in the route or to a hazard. Measuring instruments such as the thermometer , the barometer or the psychrometer are used for precise recording .


An essential requirement for shipping is the presence of waterways and ports.


With the exception of the high seas, shipping is dependent on waterways. This includes rivers , canals and coastal fairways. In terms of waterways, a distinction is made between inland and sea waterways. Inland waterways in particular have to be kept navigable by humans in order to be used by ships of today's size.

Barrages and sluices are used to regulate the water level on rivers and artificial waterways. In order to protect waterways from silting up, flowing waters in particular must be dredged regularly. Different types of hopper excavators are used for this.



Ports are used for embarkation and disembarkation of passengers and the transshipment of goods between land and ship or between ships. In addition, ports serve as bases for warships, fishing and other vehicles. Depending on the type of cargo, ports must be equipped with loading and unloading facilities such as container cranes, oil loading heads or ramps. You need storage facilities in the form of tanks, silos and floor space. Over time, ports have specialized in various tasks. In addition to inland and sea ports, a distinction must be made between , for example, container , ferry, oil, yacht and marine ports. The performance of ports depends on their technical facilities such as quays, cranes, connections to other transport systems and on their organization. The port operations are supported by a large number of special vehicles. These include tugs , pilot boats , bunker boats , mooring boats , harbor barges and floating cranes .

In Germany, the ports of Hamburg (108.3 million tons in 2005), Bremen / Bremerhaven (46.7) and Wilhelmshaven (45.9) are the ports with the largest cargo handling.


Ships are built, repaired and maintained in shipyards . Its construction has always been a complex technical challenge that requires the expertise of many professions. Up until the second half of the 19th century, most ships were built from wood, but iron and steel subsequently became the main building materials for ship hulls. Composite plastics are now often used, especially in the hulls of small ships . It was only during the Second World War that the modern series production of merchant ships began with the construction of the Liberty freighters . In the meantime, many ships are manufactured in segment construction.

While ancient ships were mostly propelled with belts , it was later possible to construct sailing ships that were driven solely by the force of the wind. In the 19th century, steam power emerged as the most important form of drive, which in turn was largely replaced by the diesel engine . In addition to combustion engines, gas turbines and diesel-electric drives are now used. In response to the high costs of fossil fuels, experiments are now being made with wind drives ( towing kites and Flettner rotors ).

The equipment of the ships depends on their task. A high degree of automation and mechanization makes it possible to operate very large ships with a low crew. Modern machine systems are designed for guard-free operation.

Organizations and institutions

Numerous national and international organizations and institutions serve to ensure safety and the smooth running of shipping.


The most important international organization is the International Maritime Organization , a sub-organization of the United Nations . The International Maritime Bureau , organized under private law, serves to combat piracy and works with the IMO.

State and public institutions

National authorities and public institutions ensure safety and compliance with shipping regulations. The obligation to do so arises to a large extent from the international agreements mentioned above, which define the tasks of the port states. Important institutions in Germany are:

In many countries, the navies also have sovereign tasks such as environmental monitoring or the fight against piracy . The naval shipping control organization has the task of ensuring the protection of merchant shipping in the event of a crisis or conflict. The naval shipping control organization of the German Navy is led by the fleet command , which reports to two naval shipping control centers in Bremerhaven and Hamburg . She is according to the NCAGS guidelines. built by NATO. NCAGS is geared towards voluntary collaboration between civil shipping and the naval forces. Essentially, it is about informing and advising shipping about the security situation. If there is a particular risk, naval forces can provide direct protection for merchant ships by leading them through cleared passages in minefields or escorting them in convoys .


The most important companies in the shipping industry are shipping companies . In the past, often symbols of national economic status, most of the large shipping companies are now international companies whose ships, for safety or tax reasons, often fly different flags than those of the main location of the shipping company. Many shipping companies have specialized, e.g. B. on tank, container or inland vessels.

Classification societies set safety standards for ships and monitor compliance with them during construction and operation. The classification takes place according to travel areas and for special travel conditions, e.g. B. “Coastal voyage” for the sailing area and “Ice class” for the ice suitability of a ship. The classification is to be checked regularly, the check is also called "make class". Ships that can no longer confirm their class lose their operating license. Classification societies are large, internationally operating companies, the German company is Germanischer Lloyd .

In the ports stevedores take care of the loading and unloading of the ships, the storage and the arrival and onward transport of the goods. Agencies look after the interests of the owner and the ship in foreign ports.

Military protection of shipping

The protection of merchant shipping is one of the most important tasks of the naval forces in war and in crisis regions. During the two world wars in particular, an extensive organization for protection against German submarines was built up on the part of the western allies . The Naval Control of Shipping Organization (NCSOrg) of NATO was guided by this during the Cold War . After its end, it was converted into the open and voluntary Naval Co-Operation and Guidance of Shipping Organization , which, among other things, organizes the protection of shipping against piracy off the coast of Somalia for NATO .


Radio room on the research ship Polarstern

For telecommunications with and between ships, there are special technologies and procedures in which marine radio links play the most important role. The coastal radio stations , which used to be mostly state-owned, have now passed into private hands in the course of the privatization of the postal and telecommunications administrations in many countries. Since the installation of the Inmarsat satellite communications system, coastal radio stations such as Norddeich Radio have lost their importance and many have been shut down.

The Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS) is a summary of technical facilities, services and rules for worldwide assistance in distress at sea and for the safety of shipping. In addition to emergency messages, this system also transmits safety information. The Digital Selective Calling (DSC) integrated in GMDSS is also used to establish VHF voice radio connections between ships. Optical telecommunication methods such as flag signaling , winkers and light signals are hardly used any more. They are only needed in individual cases in the navies, for example when B. radio silence is ordered for tactical reasons .

Legal bases

The safe nautical navigation of a ship also includes compliance with the applicable traffic regulations for shipping.

The following rules apply on the high seas:

Different national regulations apply in the territorial and inland waters. In Germany applies to the coastal waterways, the German Traffic Regulations (SeeSchStrO) on inland waterways in the inland navigation road order and on some waters such as the Rhine and Lake Constance special regulations.

Importance of shipping

With the help of shipping, it is possible to use water as a transport route or to extract resources located in and under the water. In order to secure these opportunities in the conflict between different powers, a military component of shipping has also developed. In modern societies, the tourist use of water is also gaining in importance.

Water as a means of transport

Maritime shipping

Water is the most efficient means of transport. The greatest movable structures of mankind are ships . You can move large quantities of goods with little staff and little effort. For this reason, shipping is funded, for example, within the framework of the “Marco Polo II program” of the EU Commission, which provides for so-called motorways of the sea , among other things .

Efficient shipping is a prerequisite for globalization . Labor-based economies are heavily dependent on overseas trade. Trade in the seas quadrupled between 1992 and 2012.

In 2005, Germany carried out around 20% of its foreign trade volume (with 16.2% of the foreign trade value) via sea and 5% with inland waterway vessels. 53% of the crude oil and 33% of the coal are imported by sea.

Shipping has specialized in the various goods that are transported by sea:

While overseas passenger traffic has largely lost its importance since the establishment of intercontinental flight connection networks, ferry traffic on short and medium-sized routes continues to play a major role in passenger transport. The German seaports handled around 12.6 million passengers in 2005. In addition, cruise ships are gaining increasing economic importance.

Baltic Dry Index since 1985

The Baltic Dry Index (BDI) is an important price index for the worldwide shipping of main cargo (mainly coal, iron ore and grain) on standard routes. Subgroups of the index take into account 26 main shipping routes and record the costs for time charter and travel charter for four ship classes ( Capesize , Panamax , Supramax and Handysize ) in bulk transport . The BDI has been published daily by the Baltic Exchange in London since 1985 .

The Baltic International Tanker Routes Index (BITR) has existed for the tanker market since 1998, which was split into the Baltic Dirty Tanker Index (BDTI) and the Baltic Clean Tanker Index (BCTI) in 2001 . The HARPEX and Howe Robinson Container Indexes are indices for charter rates (ship rentals) in the container ship market .

Inland shipping

Cabin passenger ship

Traditionally, bulk goods such as coal, ores and petroleum products are mainly transported on inland waters. With the expansion of inland waterways and the improved regulation of the water level, the inland transport of urgent goods such as containers or new cars is also gaining in importance. Some inland vessels such as B. River seagoing vessels are also approved for coastal travel.

Most of the passengers in inland passenger transport are transported on ferries and in urban transport ( local public transport ) in the major seaports. For longer distances on inland waterways, cabin passenger ships are used almost exclusively in tourism. Only in a few less developed regions do rivers and canals still play a role in regular passenger transport.

Flag and register

The basis for the use of the high seas is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea . It regulates the legal status of seagoing vessels on the various parts of the sea. Seagoing ships must be entered in a shipping register of a state and fly its flag . The legal system of the flag state applies to seagoing vessels, but they are not part of its national territory . Inland countries can also let seagoing vessels sail under their flag. These must each be registered in a single home port for Austria , the Vienna , for Switzerland Basel .

Many ships have historically been reflagged under the flag of countries where the legal system has established lower standards of crewing , wages and, in some cases, safety than their original home countries. This flagging has resulted in fewer and fewer seagoing vessels flying the flag of the traditional shipping nations in Europe and North America. Several countries, including Germany, have now set up a so-called second register, which, for example, allows foreign personnel to be employed at foreign tariffs. German shipowners can register ships that continue to sail under the German flag in the German Second International Register. The ship's command must consist of Germans or other EU citizens proportionally - depending on the gross tonnage. The captain must in any case be an EU citizen and demonstrate knowledge of the German language ( Sections 4 and 5 of the Ship Occupation Ordinance ). The number of German ships has increased again since then. In the meantime, it is falling again due to the use of units with a larger loading capacity and larger scrapping figures or sales, also due to the overcapacity since the end of the 2000s.

Inland navigation vessels must be entered in their own inland navigation register.

Groups of ships are grouped together as fleets . One speaks of the war, trade, fishing and research fleet.

Use of waters and their resources

Zones under the Law of the Sea according to the Convention on the Law of the Sea

In addition to transport, ships are also used to use seas and inland waters for various purposes. This includes fishing, the extraction of resources and energy, research and tourism. The rights to the treasures of the sea are regulated in the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea .


Fishing is one of the oldest ways of extracting resources from water. For sea fishing in particular, a number of special vehicles have been developed over time, such as

Today fishing plays an important role in feeding the world's population. The modern fishing fleets are so efficient that the seas are being overfished and important useful fish species are threatened with extinction.

Raw material and energy production

"Lifted" installation ship Resolution

Modern technology makes it possible to extract raw materials from the seas and large lakes and the layers of earth below. The offshore industry has developed oil and gas fields at sea with drilling rigs in the past few decades .

Large offshore wind farms are currently being built to generate electricity at sea (list here ). For the construction (and transport) of the offshore wind energy plants special ships are used like


Research vessel Polarstern

In order to be able to explore seas and inland waters, various types of research vessels are used. They serve, among other things, oceanography , geophysics , marine chemistry , marine biology including fisheries biology , marine zoology and marine geology . For these purposes they are equipped with data collection facilities and laboratories .

Leisure and Tourism

With cruise ships and pleasure boats , tourism on the water has gained great economic importance. A large number of pleasure craft can now be found on most inland waterways and in many coastal regions. The main types of sport boats are:

Many older, small ports and canals that have become too small for modern commercial shipping owe their continued existence to recreational shipping.

Military importance of shipping

Formation of warships

The military importance goes hand in hand with the economic importance of the seas and shipping. The control and securing of the sea ​​routes is a prerequisite for their use. That is why many large trading nations have traditionally built up extensive naval forces . In the beginning one limited oneself to arming merchant ships and manning them with soldiers, in the course of time a very large number of specific warships of various kinds emerged. Even in ancient times , a distinction was made between cargo and warships. In the later days of sailing, there were mainly ships of the line , frigates and corvettes on larger warships .

After the invention of steam propulsion , armor and far-reaching artillery , new types such as battleships , battlecruisers , cruisers and torpedo boats dominated the scene at the beginning of the 20th century . Before and during the Second World War , ship types developed that have since made up the main stock of many navies. These include aircraft carriers , destroyers , submarines , modern frigates, dropships , speedboats and anti-mine vehicles .

Since the end of the Cold War , the US, along with its allies in NATO and the Asia-Pacific region in general, have been able to rule the seas in almost every part of the world's oceans. Dropships and weapon systems that can be used against land targets are gaining in importance. In some coastal regions, smaller navies have sufficient forces to locally impair maritime traffic. Newly emerging powers such as China and India have greatly expanded their navies in recent years.

Shipping professions

Like shipping, the professions associated with it have changed significantly over the past few decades. This applies to the crews of the ships as well as to the shipping-related professions on land.

Maritime shipping

Clean ship

On ships, mainly nautical-nautical and technical personnel are employed. The nautical and seamanship personnel include the nautical officers , above all the captain and deck personnel , which includes the sailors and boatmen . The technical service includes the ship's engineers and mechanics. In Germany in particular, as early as 1983, the seafaring crew members were grouped together to form the profession of ship mechanic . The attempt of integrated training to become a ship operations officer, which was extended much later to include ship officers, has now been abandoned as a separate training course. In many other countries, however, the separation of nautical and technical careers has always been maintained. The independent job description of the radio officer has largely disappeared. These tasks are now mostly performed by nautical officers with additional qualifications. All professions require training of different lengths. The highest qualification is the technical college degree for nautical-technical officers, while other professions are mostly apprenticeships with different additional qualifications.

The officers' different certificates of competency (patents) allow deployment in different sailing areas and on ships of various sizes, from coastal travel on small vehicles to worldwide deployment on ships of all sizes. Due to the flagging of German seagoing ships back under the German flag, the need for German ship command personnel has been increasing for several years. On passenger ships, there are also professions in the service sector such as on-board doctor, paymaster, cruise director and others, which are mainly assigned to the catering industry. Cooks and stewards also provide catering for the crew on other ships.


The crew members in deep-sea fishing have their own qualifications that differ from those of commercial shipping. The officers and captains have their own fishing permits. Smaller fishing vessels are often operated as a sideline.

Inland shipping

Inland shipping has its own qualifications. This includes the apprenticeship of inland navigation, who can further qualify as a helmsman and skipper.


Marines on the leashes

Navy ships usually have considerably larger crews than merchant ships in order to be able to operate and maintain the sometimes very complex weapon systems. There are separate career paths for these tasks, especially among the NCOs and teams . The qualifications of naval personnel range from semi-skilled crew ranks to military officers with university degrees .

Shipping-related professions

Many seafarers who no longer want to go on long voyages find employment in port service . This includes the mooring and ewer guides, but also pilots and shipping line inspectors. At the same time, new professions such as port skippers are emerging .

Women on board

Even if the seafaring professions are now open to women, their share in the crew is still small. There are exceptions for the service staff, especially on passenger ships. The proportion of female crew members in the German Navy has been growing steadily since 2001 as a result of the judgment of the European Court of Justice of January 22, 2000, all careers were also opened to women.

Language and customs

The internationalization of shipping has meant that most of the crews now consist of members of several nations. There is always a German ship's command on German ocean-going ships, but the remaining crew members are almost exclusively foreigners, the majority of whom in 2004 came from the Philippines (36.6%), China (9.3%), India (8.1%) ), Ukraine (5.4%), Russia (4.9%), Poland (4.4%), Greece (3.2%), Croatia (2.2%), Latvia (2.0%) and Korea (1.9%). The official language on board many ships is English, sometimes Spanish, Russian, French or another national language.

Shipping and the environment

Ships have a low specific fuel consumption . Compared to other modes of transport, they are considered to be relatively climate-friendly means of transport. However, it is problematic to use poor quality fuels with a high sulfur content (see heavy fuel oil ).

Worldwide, shipping is responsible for the emission of around one billion tons of carbon dioxide , which corresponds to 3% of all man-made CO 2 emissions. It also causes around 15% of global nitrogen oxide emissions and 13% of sulfur dioxide emissions , and the trend is rising. This is accompanied by damage to the environment and health , especially in heavily polluted port cities or metropolitan areas near port areas, where ship emissions are among the most important sources of pollution. Ships emit a large number of air pollutants , especially sulfur oxides, which have a negative impact on health and thus premature deaths e.g. B. caused by cardiovascular problems or lung cancer and diseases such as asthma . As of 2018, shipping caused around 400,000 premature deaths and around 14 million asthma illnesses in children worldwide. Up until 2013, only a few were equipped with catalytic converters for exhaust gas desulphurization in shipping . There are certain regulations in SECAs ( Sulfur Emission Control Areas ).

For decades there has been a trend towards larger ships (see e.g. container ship # Development of ship size ). These are more environmentally friendly than smaller ships because less fuel is used or CO 2 is emitted per tonne-kilometer (or e.g. per container transported) . In other words: a ship twice as large under the same conditions does not need twice the amount of fuel per route. Since the fuel price has risen massively, slow steaming is worthwhile for many ships . Today's diesel engines consume less than 180 g of fuel per kilowatt hour (kWh) generated.

When expanding waterways , shipping and environmental concerns are often in competition. The construction of canals and the deepening of rivers are associated with interventions in nature. That is why there have been protest movements in the past against projects such as the Main-Danube Canal or protests against the deepening of the Elbe .

In the past, maritime disasters caused - in some cases major - environmental damage. Oil tanker accidents in particular have resulted in major oil spills and the death of many marine animals and birds. The breakup of the Amoco Cadiz in March 1978 off the coast of Brittany (north-west France) was a trigger for the introduction of double-hulled tankers . At that time, 223,000 tons of crude oil flowed into the sea. In July 1979, after the collision of two oil tankers in the Atlantic - Atlantic Empress and Aegean Captain - about 287,000 t of 470,000 t of crude oil leaked.

Literature (magazines)

See also

Portal: Shipping  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of shipping

Web links

Commons : Shipping  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Shipping  - Sources and full texts
Wiktionary: Schifffahrt  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Andrew Lawler: Neandertals, Stone Age people may have voyaged the Mediterranean. April 24, 2018, accessed December 11, 2018 .
  2. ^ Bernhard Berking, Werner Huth: Handbook Nautics - Navigatorische Schiffsführung. 1st edition. Seehafen Verlag, 2010, pp. 139–219
  3. ^ Bernhard Berking, Werner Huth: Handbook Nautics - Navigatorische Schiffsführung. 1st edition. Seehafen Verlag, 2010, pp. 247-314
  4. a b c Flottenkommando, Annual Report 2006 - facts and figures on the maritime dependence of the Federal Republic of Germany (PDF)
  5. ^ Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration
  6. Information from the fleet command to naval shipping management
  7. Naval Co-operation and Guidance for Shipping according to NATO regulation MC 376 (PDF)
  8. NCAGS Organization, Publications, and Documents AAP-8 (F) (PDF)
  9. Regulation (EC) No. 1692/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of October 24, 2006 establishing the second Marco Polo program on the granting of Community financial aid to improve the environmental friendliness of the freight transport system (Marco Polo II) and repealing it of Regulation (EC) No. 1382/2003
  10. Peter G. Ryan, Ben J. Dilley, Robert A. Ronconi, Maëlle Connan: Rapid increase in Asian bottles in the South Atlantic Ocean indicates major debris inputs from ships . In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . September 25, 2019, ISSN  0027-8424 , p. 201909816 , doi : 10.1073 / pnas.1909816116 ( [accessed September 30, 2019]).
  11. Over 160 newbuildings for German shipowners . In: Daily port report from January 2, 2013, p. 1
  12. US Maritime Administration (PDF)  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  13. ^ Winkel et al .: Shore Side Electricity in Europe: Potential and environmental benefits . In: Energy Policy . tape 88 , 2016, p. 584–593 , doi : 10.1016 / j.enpol.2015.07.013 .
  14. Mikhail Sofiev et al .: Cleaner fuels for ships provide public health benefits with climate tradeoffs . In: Nature Communications . tape 9 , 2018, doi : 10.1038 / s41467-017-02774-9 .