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How $50.2 Billion in Exports Came to America's Shore in the 21st Century


In 1620, the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth, England to what is today called Provincetown Harbor, Massachusetts. The ship carried around 100 passengers, 30 crewmembers, and 180 casks of wine. Crossing the Atlantic during storm season was a treacherous journey that lasted roughly two-and-a-half months, leaving one crew member dead and countless passengers seasick.

Plenty has changed since then. Today, the sea voyage between England and the United States takes one week. Ships are built of steel and can weather the North Atlantic swells with ease. The amount of cargo traveling across the ocean has also increased. According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), over 90% of current world trade is carried by sea. The International Chamber of Shipping boasts over 50,000 merchant ships trading internationally, with a registered world fleet in over 150 countries, and approximately one million workers of almost every nationality. Since most of the world’s manufactured products are carried via container ships, there’s a good chance that the clothes you’re wearing and the electronic device you’re reading this article on were first carried on a container ship before a truck transported them over land.

The fleets of vessels traveling the ocean in the 17th century were of no competition to the container ships of today. The Mayflower is estimated to have been 100 feet long, 25 feet wide, and 12 feet below the waterline. Records show the wine casks were large barrels that accommodated hundreds of gallons of liquid in the cargo hold.

In stark contrast, container ships of the 21st century are now the ballasts of modern trade. They are able to carry thousands of tons of product in one trip, greatly facilitating international trade. The world’s largest container ships stretch across four football field lengths and can carry 28,880,000 cubic feet of products. That’s about one banana for every person in Europe. Today, major shipping lanes connect the United Kingdom with the United States. Products coming from England to America usually leave the Port of London and arrive in the Port of New York and New Jersey five to seven days later. The most common exports from the United Kingdom are cars, followed by refined petroleum, packaged medicaments, and gas turbines. The ships that carry them have over 100,000 horsepower and can be run by crews as small as 13 people. The Mayflower had a crew of 30 and would have been lucky to reach 30 horsepower in good conditions.

Because of the primitive navigation tools of the time, ships were commonly set off-course or lost at sea. Today, GPS tracking technology allows cargo to be monitored in rugged environments anywhere in the globe. Assets traveling by ship first stop at ports, load onto trucks, travel to the local store, and end up in a consumers’ hand. The journey is digitally documented to ensure safety, efficiency, and cost-effective transport. Data gathered from the GPS devices are used to report real-time locations, statuses, and time stamps of events providing companies with useful information. The more key data businesses have about their assets, the better decisions they can make.

Since the Mayflower set sail from the southern coast of England, international trade has evolved into an impressive scale. The same route that brought English settlers to North America in the 17th century now brings in $50.2 billion in exports every year. The United States is England’s first stop and top destination for exports. And the journey to America has evolved into an efficient and more connected sea voyage that now includes the latest tracking technology, ensuring people and goods are safely transported.   

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