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Overseas shipping in the 20th Century

Aug 5, 2008
The end of the Spanish-American War and the building of the Panama Canal were the two events at the beginning of the 20th Century that changed the nature of overseas shipping and helped to make it the billion dollar international business that it is today. The dispatch of the United States final rival in North America enabled the country to finally expand to the shores of the Pacific and control the harbors and overseas shipping routes to and from North America. The Panama Canal made it possible for ships to pass from one coast to another without the long and difficult voyage around Cape Horn.

The early 20th Century also brought the development of the internal combustion engine and the change from sailing ships to those powered by petroleum. Overseas shipping became a faster and more reliable process and the United States and the nations of Europe began to seek out more international markets. Japan, which had opened its doors decades earlier, was now being solicited for trade and the nations of Southeast Asia became a popular destination for overseas shipping to and from the West Coast of the United States.

The United States, having struggled to stand on its own for nearly two hundred years, formed alliances with some of the nations of Europe that they had trade relations with. The overseas shipping routes between England and America were the oldest and most prosperous so it seemed only natural that Great Britain and the U.S. would become partners. When World War I broke out, this alliance proved valuable to both countries and the War to End all Wars was won by the nations that championed democracy.

World War I and World War II that followed thirty years later were the first conflicts in history that took on a truly global scale. The overseas shipping that had been done between nations for centuries resulted in alliances that were based not just on military power, but economic needs. These alliances, despite their destructive intent, were actually the beginning of the world trade markets that we see today.

At the end of World War II, the United States and most of the rest of the world enjoyed a period of peace and technological advancement. The airplane, which had been tested under fire in both wars, became a practical means of transportation and replaced seagoing vessels for much of the overseas shipping that was being done. Although it was more expensive, the airplane's ability to get there faster was appealing to many of the businesses and government agencies of the twentieth century. Ships were still being used for larger cargoes but air freight and overnight shipping changed the way companies were doing business.

The 20th Century also brought us the computer. This revolutionary invention, once so large that you needed a freight truck to move one, has been condensed to the size of a pad of paper and has brought us into the world of e-commerce. Overseas shipping for anyone now is a simple matter of pressing a button and selecting air, sea, or land transport and whether or not you want to pay to get it there overnight.
About the Author
Nir Dotan is a writer and promoter of
International Shipping
services, and
Auto Shipping
Local as well as International Moving
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