Maritime trade

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

As maritime trade refers to the commercial trade of goods with merchant ships on the sea . Since the transport of raw materials, mineral resources and products by ship is often much more cost-effective than transport by land, the transport of goods by shipping dominates.


Depictions of ships from frühester time showing that humanity already in ancient times and in the past has sought the way across the lake. This led to the discovery and conquest of previously unknown continents. The boundaries between sea trade and piracy were fluid.



Around 3000 BC In Egypt for the first time the paddles were replaced by the more energy-saving oars (oars) on larger ships in Egypt, this is the first great known revolution in ship propulsion.

Pharaoh Psammetich I (664 - 610 BC) kept a Greek mercenary fleet and promoted Greek trade in his empire.

Seaworthy Boat (Egypt, 1250 BC)

His successor Necho II (609 - 594 BC) intensified the maritime efforts by building a navigable canal from the Nile into the Red Sea.


The Phoenicians were an ancient Semitic people who lived in Phenicia, especially in what is now Lebanon, on the Mediterranean coast. From the early 1st millennium onwards, they founded numerous colonies in Cyprus, Sicily, Sardinia, Spain and Portugal as well as on the North African coast. Among other things, the Phoenicians founded today's cities of Cádiz and Málaga (Spain). The Phoenicians developed from around 1000 BC Seaworthy sailing ships.


The half-Chinese Yüeh people lived in the area south of the mouth of the Jang-tse-kiang . This operation around 510 BC BC River and coastal shipping. The Wu empire subjugated around 450 BC. The people of the Yüeh. This was the first time that a people who operated seafaring came under the suzerainty of the Chinese. Zhèng Hé鄭 和 (* 1371 Kunming in the Yunnan Province ; † 1433 or 1435) is considered the most famous Chinese admiral and one of the most important seafarers of the 2nd millennium AD. Between 1405 and 1433, Zheng He undertook seven large expeditions to the Pacific and Indian Oceans with huge fleets .


Athens conquered around 610 BC. In a war of several years with Megara the island of Salamis . Then sea connections through the Dardanelles and the Bosporus with the Black Sea began . Already before that, from the first half of the 7th century BC , Miletus had Numerous colonies were founded on the Marmara Sea and the coasts of the Black Sea. In the 8th century BC The Greek colonization began. Due to the lack of cultivation areas, colonial daughter towns were founded. The largest trading centers included Taras , Kyme , Sybaris , Croton , Naples , Naxos , Rhegion and Syracuse . Corinth , which was one of the most important sea powers in the Greek world, built the best ships at this time and, according to Thucydides, had towards the end of the 8th century BC. The trireme invented.


Located at the crossroads of the trade routes between the eastern and western and the northern and southern Mediterranean Sea , Carthage was also one of the main transshipment points for foreign goods. The Carthaginians mainly imported silver from southern Spain, where there were high-yield mines near the city of Carthago Nova (now Cartagena ). Gold likely came from West Africa through direct or indirect trade . The demand for less valuable metals such as copper and iron could probably be covered by domestic deposits in North Africa. Under the sailor Himilkon , the Carthaginians even undertook an expedition to Britain in order to develop the tin deposits there.

The Punians destroyed around 540 BC. The trading city of Tartessos . Tartessos ( Greek Τάρτησσος) was, according to classical tradition, a kingdom or port city on the south coast of the Iberian Peninsula . In ancient times, the city was known for its incredible wealth of metals.


In the first Punic War (264 to 241 BC) Carthaginian warships stranded on the coast of Italy. The Carthaginian shipbuilding technology was copied and supplemented by the Corvus as a Roman invention. Within a short time, the Romans built up an efficient shipbuilding industry and built a fleet that could compete with the Carthaginians.

After the victory over Pyrrhus around 275 BC. Chr. Rome began coins to coin facilitating trade. It is the denarius of four sesterces of 2½ aces each. Previously, Rome had no need for coins due to the lack of maritime trade. More and more Romans came around 50 BC. As tourists to Egypt . From Alexandria , passenger shipping developed up the Nile to the sights of the country. After Christianity had become the state religion , pilgrimages to Jerusalem began.

middle Ages

America / Spain

In the course of the colonization of America, gold and silver were imported into Europe in large quantities: once a year a convoy of ships sailed to the Spanish colonies in America. Within a century, Spain was able to become the richest country in Europe. This wealth was the basis of the Spanish rise to world power. However, the supremacy was dependent on the continuous flow of money from the colonies.


Since Genoa had a natural harbor, it must have been used as a seaport as soon as the Tyrrhenian Sea began to be used for shipping. With no less dexterity than Venice , Genoa took up all the opportunities of the extensive freight forwarding between Western Europe and the Middle East that resulted from the Crusades. The success of Genoa in trade and seafaring during the Middle Ages is all the more remarkable as, unlike the rival Venetians, it was constantly plagued by internal disagreements. The common people and the nobility fought against each other, rival parties among the nobility strove to gain supremacy in the state.


Northern Europe and the Hanseatic cities around 1400

In 1358 long-distance merchants formed the Hanseatic League . The Hanseatic League ruled the economy of Northern Europe until the rise of England and the Netherlands.

At the time of its greatest expansion, almost 300 sea and inland cities in northern Europe were united in the Städtehanse. Between around 1350 and 1400, the Hanseatic League was a major Northern European power. In 1356 the first Hanseatic day met, in which almost all Hanseatic cities took part. About 72 cities formed the core of the Hanseatic League. After the second Waldemark War , the election of a king in Denmark was de jure dependent on the consent of the Hanseatic League. In 1669 the last remaining cities in the Hanseatic League, Lübeck , Hamburg , Bremen , Danzig , Rostock , Braunschweig , Hildesheim , Osnabrück and Cologne held the last Hanseatic Day.


For securing maritime trade Venice built from 1104, a ship shipyard , the Arsenal, which was extended several times. The fleets built here accompanied the regular merchant convoys and were also a means of curbing piracy .

Maritime trade with Arabia brought great profits to the city-states of Venice, Genoa and Pisa in the Middle Ages . Spices, fabrics, fragrances, drugs and rice were imported into Europe from these cities. Venice in particular became famous for these imports.

Since the second half of the 13th century at the latest, ship convoys have usually operated twice a year. 30 to 50 ships each took part. Initially, these ships that went to the Byzantine Empire were smaller, but their number was greater: mostly nine or ten galleys . Later, often only two or four drove.

The international trade fairs were the meeting point for all distance traders . The world trading center Venice became a permanent trade fair city. At the Grand Canal and the Piazza San Marco huge sums have been implemented. Merchants from Augsburg , Nuremberg and Ulm had branches here.


Viking shipping routes in Northern Europe

The word Viking is probably derived from the Old Norse noun víkingr (masculine), which means "sea warrior who takes a long journey from home". Víking (feminine) initially only means the long journey by ship, then secondarily also the "war voyage at sea to distant coasts". However, this is already the final stage of word development. The word is older than the Viking Age and is already used in Anglo-Saxon Wídsíð . In the German-speaking world, "Vikings" only became a general term for Nordic seafarers in the 19th century. With fast and agile ships, the Vikings went to the North and Baltic Seas and landed in England, Iceland and on the European. Mainland.

Modern times


Dutch three-master in front of Kronborg Castle in Denmark, the collection point for the sound tariff

In the Netherlands (which includes today's regions of northern France, Belgium , Luxembourg , the Netherlands and East Frisia ), trade has always been of great importance because of the good traffic situation and the lack of essential goods. Once the natural existing rivers and watercourses were regulated in their water level with dams. Trading branches were established there (see Amsterdam and Rotterdam ), which replaced port and trading cities further inward (e.g. Utrecht , Dordrecht ). On the other hand, the population was looking for another economic mainstay alongside agriculture, and found it with salt production and small and farmer trade. In the Middle Ages, the Dutch cities established themselves as an independent entity at the intersection of north-south trade (Hanseatic League, Mediterranean Sea) and east-west trade (England, Baltic Sea) (e.g. Hanso-Dutch War ). Another direction of trade was that along the Rhine ( Cologne ). Due to the geographical peculiarities, grain cultivation was not of paramount importance in agriculture, but a variety of other areas were available. In addition to growing vegetables, there was also cattle farming (the cow became a synonym for the Netherlands in the 17th century; cf. Paulus Potter ). Missing products, such as wood and grain, were traded from different regions ( Baltic States , Norway , Black Forest ; Gdansk, Brandenburg, Poland-Lithuania).

Maritime employment opportunities affected large parts of the population. Both the nautical professions and the manufacturing trades supported many families. Shipbuilding and related trades were important and promoted factors in the individual cities (port expansion). This included the blacksmiths, the rope mills , sawmills and the timber trade. These in turn created an important supplier trade with required materials (charcoal, metals, sawn and trunk wood, hemp and flax) that was organized nationwide. Trade was also organized in a variety of ways. In addition to the mentioned small and farmer trade (Beurtvaart) in the surrounding area or neighboring areas (such as Brittany, England, the German North Sea coast, Lower and Middle Rhine ), there were also larger trips. They differed by region and product: z. B. the little trip , Levante, Baienfahrt , great East and West Indies. Because of the patrician networks, this trade was concentrated in individual regions or cities. So the Baltic Sea trade , the so-called Great East , became the moedernegotie of Amsterdam. This also increased political interest in the events and changes in this region. Dutch war fleets have been sent out several times to look after their own interests in this region (e.g. Torstensson War , sea ​​battle in Öresund , sea ​​battle near Öland ). The important thing here was the ownership of the Oresund, at the narrowest point of which the sound tariff was levied. But also Norway, with its products wood and stockfish, was in the political area of ​​interest of Amsterdam and also of the North Holland-West Frisian cities of Enkhuizen and Hoorn . The Hanseatic city of Kampen in Overijssel lost its importance with the silting up of the IJssel , the decline of the Hanseatic League and changes in trade (see also Kamper Kogge ). Another sailing area was the salt trip. This was brought from the Spanish or French ports of the Bay of Biscay (Bay - Baai, therefore Baienfahrt). This trade was more likely to be carried out by the ports of Zeeland or South Holland ( Middelburg , Vlissingen , Rotterdam ). From there, but also from other Dutch ports, they also traded with ports in the Mediterranean, the so-called Levant trade. Here, too, economic interests led to political action. During the First Sea War against England, the Dutch War and the War of the Spanish Succession , navies were sent to the Mediterranean. Further areas of trade were the Guinea trade, the Russian trade (often part of the Baltic Sea trade), which was conducted via Arkhangelsk until the founding of St. Petersburg .

Whaling near Spitsbergen

The fishing was carried out from many ports and took place in the maritime areas around Great Britain and the North Sea. Most of the seamen and families were employed here and were of paramount importance to many smaller towns (e.g. Vlaardingen ) (cf. Jacob Cats : Lof van de Haring , 1658). Later in the 17th century whale fishing was added in the more northerly areas of the Atlantic. Merchant ships from the Netherlands were built particularly economically. The Fleute was a ship that had only a shallow draft and, despite its small size, had a relatively large cargo hold. The VOC was a public limited company from Amsterdam. It was founded in 1602. The Indonesian islands were the center of the Dutch colonial empire. Because of the precious spices, the VOC brought its founders an annual profit of 22 percent.


Shortly after the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, a group of merchants petitioned Queen Elizabeth I. They asked for permission to sail in the Indian Ocean. Permission was granted and in 1591 three ships sailed from England around the Cape of Good Hope in the Arabian Sea .

British East India Company

legal form Corporation
founding December 31, 1600
resolution January 1, 1874
Seat London

Two years later, on September 24, 1598, a group of traders in London formed a trading company with £ 30,133 . The company was run by a governor and 24 directors. The British East India Company emerged from this company. In the beginning, the East India Company had very important special rights. For example, the company could build fortresses, raise troops and strike coins. These rights should equate the company with the Dutch East India Company .

In 1813 the society lost its special rights to trade, but retained supreme power in civil and military affairs. Due to the policies of the British East India Company, many landowners lost large chunks of property and the majority of the Indian population lost employment opportunities and influence. The social and economic policy of the British East India Company and the increased Christianization led to an uprising in India in 1857. After the rebellion was put down, the British East India Company was disbanded as the British government saw its practices in treating the Indian population as the main cause of the uprising.


Colonies 1492-2007

Although colonization offered the colonial powers economic advantages, few colonies have become important trading bases. The colonial trade was relatively insignificant for the total trade of the mother country. In the colonial era, the exchange of goods between the colonial powers was many times that of trade with the colonies.


From the end of the 19th century, steamships began to gain acceptance. In 1889, the passenger ship Teutonic, the first ocean-going steamer without any sail, was put into service. In the first half of the 20th century steamships finally established themselves in the seafaring industry.

20th century

In 1914 the Panama Canal was completed. In 1956 the first container ship was built in the USA. In 1968 the conversion to container trading began . In 1996 the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea was set up in Hamburg. Between 1992 and 2012, trade on the seas had quadrupled.

Todays situation

The largest part of the worldwide exchange of goods is carried out by merchant shipping, which contributes around 98 percent to intercontinental and 62 percent to intra-European trade. The efficiency of maritime trade is determined in particular by an efficient transport infrastructure . In addition to the transport of bulk goods (ores, coal and, above all, crude oil), fast container and general cargo traffic is of particular importance today . While large container ships continents combine, connect feeder vessels , the large container ports with other ports on the coast and partly inland. The pure trade between cities within the national borders is carried out as internal trade . Trade between the world's major economic regions, East Asia , Europe and North America , is largely carried out by ship.

Major seaports include Shanghai (China), Singapore , Busan (South Korea), Hong Kong (China), Rotterdam (Netherlands), Antwerp (Belgium) and Hamburg (Germany).

RMS Titanic , Queen Mary 2 and Airbus A380 in comparison

Water is the most efficient means of transport. The greatest movable structures of mankind are ships. You can transport large quantities of goods over long distances with few staff and low specific energy consumption. Despite a limited top speed, they can cover long distances in a relatively short time if they can travel at sea without interruption. Except on the high seas, ships rely on waterways. This includes rivers , canals and coastal fairways.

Maritime shipping is divided into different types of cargo ships . These have the following share of the shipping market: bulk carriers (55%), tankers (27%), container ships (14%), gas tankers (2%) and others (2%). Bulk carriers (also known as bulk carriers) mainly transport iron ore, coal, grain, bauxite, phosphate, cement, sugar, rice, scrap and steel. The tankers are divided into crude oil tankers, product tankers (tankers for refined products), chemical tankers and liquefied gas tankers.

The turnover of goods in the German seaports amounted to 304.7 million tons of goods with a value of 511.1 billion euros in 2018 (2017: 299.5 million tons). The amount of goods exported was 117.7 million t, that of imports 179.0 million t. Sea traffic between German ports was 8.2 million t. A total of 15.1 million TEU were handled in container traffic in the German seaports  . These included 3.0 million TEU in maritime trade with China, 1.4 million TEU with the USA and 0.7 million. TEU with Russia. The volume of goods in bulk handling was 115.6 million t in 2018, of which 88.8 million t were imports and 26.8 million t were exported. A total of 127,972 ship calls were registered, of which 64,677  RoRo ships (50.5%), 25,111 passenger ships including cruise ships (19.6%), 12,591 general cargo carriers (9.8%) and 10,999 container ships (8.6%).



Accidents at sea are called average . In extreme cases, this can lead to the loss of the vehicle and all of the goods. Their property settlement is called average . Already in the first written maritime law, the sea ​​litter was recognized as an accepted means of avoiding major damage or risks. The high frequency of accidents up until the beginning of modern times had an impact on the organization of sea trade. Losses should be limited by spreading the risks from the perspective of the financier and distributing them to as many shareholders as possible from the perspective of the shipowner. From this the partner shipping company developed .


In armed conflicts, trade can be endangered and hindered by blockades or direct acts of war. The enticement of the crew or the requisitioning of vehicles were just as damaging. Protection against military activities required higher investments, either through administrative certification, which had to be purchased, or through military provisions (convoy, armament, choice of route). On the other hand, until the beginning of the modern era there were seldom times when actual undisturbed trading was guaranteed. That is why the war was included in the commercial calculation as a business with then higher risks. Vehicles were offered to the warring party and advantages (money, privileges) were negotiated, or equipment and war goods were rented and the transport of supplies was organized.


Areas affected by piracy (as of 2013)

Piracy (from the Greek  πειρᾶν peiran , actually “take / take away”, through πειρατής , peirātḗs and Latin pirata , “pirate”) or piracy are acts of violence , property crimes or deprivation of liberty that are carried out for self-interested purposes using a sea or air vehicle perpetrated on the high seas or in other areas. Since the middle of the 19th century, piracy had almost disappeared in the industrial nations of the western world. However, in certain sea areas (e.g. Southeast Asia , Africa and Latin America ) piracy is once again a serious danger and is even increasing again due to globalization and political upheavals. In 2005 a total of 274 attacks were reported, in 2007 there were 263. 440 (2007 292) crew members were kidnapped, mostly to extort ransom. Although the sea around Indonesia remained the center of piracy, the situation off the coasts of Somalia and Yemen has deteriorated particularly due to, among other things, sharply increased ransom demands. The protection of sea trade and the fight against piracy are permanent tasks of the navies of all nations.


The following areas of law concern maritime trade:

See also


  • RP Legon. Megara. The political History of a Greek City-State to 336 BC Ithaca / London, 1981.
  • CM Reed. Maritime traders in the ancient Greek world. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge 2004, ISBN 0-521-26848-6 .
  • Jörg Duppler: Maritime trade and naval forces, dependencies and interactions. Military History Research Office, Potsdam 1991/3.
  • Franz Halbartschlager, Andreas Obenaus, Philipp A. Sutner (eds.): Sea trade routes . Pioneer of early globalization . Mandelbaum-Verlag, Vienna 2019, ISBN 978385476-839-5 .
  • Martin Krieger : merchants, pirates and diplomats. Böhlau, Cologne et al. 1998, ISBN 3-412-10797-2 .
  • Roderich Ptak: The maritime silk road. Coastal Areas, Seafaring, and Pre-Colonial Trade. Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-406-56189-4 .
  • Dieter Rabe: Maritime Trade Law. Munich 2000, 4th edition, ISBN 3-406-45510-7 .
  • Ellen E. Rice (Ed.): The Sea and History. Sutton Publishing Ltd., London 1996, ISBN 0-7509-1096-8 .
  • Raimund Schulz : Antiquity and the Sea. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2005.
  • Philip de Souza: The mastery of the seas. How seafaring shaped human history. Munich 2006, ISBN 3-492-24230-8 .
  • Report of the fleet command: facts and figures on the maritime dependence of the Federal Republic of Germany. Archive from 2004.

Individual evidence

  1. DHL - freight traffic in comparison ( Memento of the original from June 20, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. ^ Frank Müller-Römer: Transports on the Nile with boats and ships in ancient Egypt. Many illustrations of boats in ancient Egypt.
  3. Cheryl Ward: World's Oldest Planked Boats. on
  4. DM Loades: The Making of the Elizabethan Navy, 1540-1590: From the Solent to the Armada. Boydell, Woodbridge 2009. p. 121.
  6. Ronald P. Legon: Megara, the Political History of a Greek City-State to 336 BC Cornell Univ. Pr., April 1981, ISBN 0-8014-1370-2 .
  7. comprehensive on this: Norbert Erhardt: Milet and his colonies . P. Lang Verlag, Michigan 1983, ISBN 3-8204-7876-0 .
  8. Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War 1,13,2-5
  10. ^ Text about Himilkon
  11. ^ Phillips Payson O'Brien: Technology and naval combat in the twentieth century and beyond. Routledge, 2001, ISBN 0-7146-5125-7 , p. 7.
  12. ^ Karl Otmar von Aretin : Das Alte Reich 1648-1806. In four volumes. Volume 3. Klett-Cotta, 1997, ISBN 3-608-91398-X , p. 69.
  13. ^ Rebecca M. Norris: Carpaccio's "Hunting on the lagoon" and "two Venetian ladies": A vignette of fifteenth-century Venetian life. In: College of Fine and Professional Arts of Kent State University Master of Arts Thesis. August 2007, accessed January 30, 2010.
  14. ^ Arsenal (Venice) - Google Maps
  16. a b Askeberg p. 140.
  17. Askeberg p. 136.
  18. ^ Sveinbjörn Egilsson: Lexicon poeticum antiquae linguae septentrionalis - Ordbog over det norsk-islandske Skjaldesprog. 2nd edition with Finnur Jónsson. Copenhagen 1831; Walter Baetke: Dictionary of Old Norse prose literature. Berlin 1987. Egils saga chapter 1:… he han var á ungaaldri lá hann í víkingu ok herjaði (= in his youth he was on Wiking and army.)
  19. Gustaaf Asaert: Maritieme Geschiedenis der Nederlanden. de Boer Maritim, 4 volumes. Bussum 1976, ISBN 90-228-1945-0 .
  20. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India . tape II , 1908, p. 454 ( [GIF]).
  21. Trade with the colonies ( Memento from September 23, 2006 in the Internet Archive )
  22. 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]).
  24. ^ Gunther Dütsch: Forward Freight Agreements (FFA). Presentation, Vattenfall Trading Services, June 2007.
  25. Large fleet, small flag . In: Hansa , issue 12/2019, pp. 30/31
  26. ^ Iole Fargnoli , Stefan Rebenich : The legacy of the Romans: Roman law and Europe, Christoph Krampe : Roman law on the high seas. 1st edition. Bern / Stuttgart / Vienna 2012, ISBN 978-3-258-07751-2 , p. 125.
  27. ^ Elmar B. Potter, Chester W. Nimitz: Seemacht: a naval war history from antiquity to the present. Pawlak, Herrsching 1986, ISBN 3-88199-082-8 .
  28. Robbers on the high seas - piracy is on the rise., January 13, 2007.