Understanding Ocean Freight

28 graphs to help you understand the basics of container and maritime transport logistics

Maritime and Ocean Transport is a huge and highly complex industry, with over 90% of all global trade carried by sea. Still, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the data, jargon, and ever-shifting market forces that define the industry. 

This guide is intended to help you get familiar with the terms, trends, and numbers used in the container shipping industry. We hope this guide will be helpful to anyone in logistics who focuses on Ocean and Maritime transportation. 

We invite shippers, service providers, and everyone who supports this industry to dive into the world of Ocean Freight.

What’s inside

This handbook provides a data-driven look at the fundamentals of Ocean Freight, including:

  • The basics of container and maritime transport

  • Global container transport networks

  • Ocean carriers and Alliances

  • Rates and contracts

  • Bunker and GHG reduction

A growing demand for global goods

A vast majority of global trade — 80% by volume and 70% by value — are carried by sea and are handled by ports worldwide. In 2020, despite the worldwide interruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, shipping volumes were only 0.6% lower than 2019 levels. 

In 2021, demand surged ahead, driven by consumer behavior switching from services to consumer goods. 


Intro to container vessels

Container vessels have steadily grown in size and capacity over the years. On average, large vessels are safer and the frequency of shipping losses overall has steadily declined over the past decade. However, larger vessels mean far greater accumulations of risks and therefore greater values and exposures, both on board and in ports.

Download the Handbook

Fill out the form below to get instant access to our handbook on Understanding Ocean Freight.


Explore our digital freight solutions

Together our products work in harmony to increase transport efficiency along the full lifecycle of freight activities.

Freight Sourcing Hub

Strategic Benchmarking

Strategic Benchmarking
  • Persistent freight cost savings with up to 8% with our state of art benchmarking approach.
  • Get the most comprehensive overview of all markets and for all modes.
  • Profit from insights into latest market developments & forecasts.
  • Get a deeper understanding of rate developments & costs drivers.
  • Receive regular information with market overviews, developments, cost drivers.

Market Intelligence & Benchmarking

Supply Chain Advisory

Supply Chain Advisory
  • Know-How from more than 1,700 supply chain projects and 25+ years of experience 
  • Gain full global network transparency  
  • Achieve cost savings through supply chain optimization
  • Support for all phases, from conception to implementation into your supply chain
  • Deep knowledge of all modes of transport
  • Specialized Benchmarks with proven Market Intelligence methodology

Insights Hub

Market Insights

Market Insights
  • Monitor the contractually agreed rates between shippers, logistic service providers, and the spot market.
  • Use important "indirect" indicators to illustrate the capacity situation on any given lane or market.
  • Define the lanes and metrics that you want to monitor.
  • Get a clear overview of the biggest market changes and top movers.