Short sea shipping is often perceived as a single type of maritime service taking place over short distances, while it involves three main types of distinct services:
- Regional short sea services. Concerns specific connections that are designed to service commercial relations, commonly within the same corporation (dedicated single services) with scheduled but low-frequency services. Depending on the commercial relation, it can involve bulk or containerized cargoes carried by smaller ships, unless large volumes of bulk cargoes are involved, such as for petroleum or mining products.
- Feeder services. Connections are integrated into the global container shipping network through transshipment hubs to move containers from feeder (smaller ships) to deepsea (large ships) services. These services are scheduled according to the network strategies of the shipping lines and can be replaced with direct calls if volumes are substantial enough. Feeder services effectively link smaller ports to the global shipping network. Still, they involve additional delays due to transshipment and higher costs per TEU because of the lack of economies of scale.
- Ferry services. Fixed point-to-point services running on scheduled and high-frequency routes that usually accommodate a combination of passengers and freight flows using roll-on / roll-off operations. They are present to service well-defined connections that include social (passengers) and commercial (freight) interactions.