Updated: Feb 10
There are multiple ways to move physical goods across distances and each with their advantages and disadvantages. You are likely aware of them, but I want to ensure that fundamentals are covered and nothing is taken for granted before we go deeper into the topic.
Container ships are the most economical method to transport a large volume of goods between continents. They can transport containers, bulk and break bulk cargo. Tanker vessels transport large volumes of liquid or gases. Shipping has been the main facilitator of global trade. In addition to large ocean faring vessels, smaller vessels are used in smaller waterways and lakes for more localized transport. The vessels used include ferries and barges.
Air is the fastest but also the most expensive of the modes of transport. It is best used for products with a high value to weight and volume ratio or when short lead times are required (perishables, medicines, critical components, etc.). Air freight is carried on freight/air cargo aircrafts and also in the belly of passenger aircrafts.
Road is the most flexible of the modes of transport and the primary method used in logistics. It can be divided into long-haul and short-haul. Almost all final destinations, also known as last mile delivery, are completed by road.
Rail is an economical way to transport bulk commodities and containers over long distances. The two major railways in Canada are Canadian National Railways (CN) and Canadian Pacific Railways (CP). Their connections to ports also facilitate the transition from ocean freight to inland transport.
Pipeline is the mode that many forget is a mode of transport but the volume and infrastructure is actually quite large. There are more than 840,000 km of transmission, gathering, and distribution pipelines in Canada. However, pipelines are limited in the commodities they are capable of transporting. Crude oil and natural gas are the primary commodities being transported.