Cargo is a word very commonly used for goods that are transported from one place to another, and we have air cargo (transported by airplane), sea cargo (transported by ship) and cargo on train. Today, there are many packers and movers that term your household items as cargo when you want them to be transported from one city to another in case of a transfer. Another word shipment also is used to refer to goods that are being transported. However, it connotes more the act of transportation than cargo itself. Cargo and shipment have become so commonplace that many people tend to use them interchangeably as if they are synonyms. Let us see if there are indeed any differences between the two terms.
Cargo is always a noun that refers to goods or items that are being transported. On the other hand, shipment is both a noun as well as verb. When used as a noun, it is synonymous with cargo as it then refers to the goods being moved around while when used as a verb, it refers to the actual act of transportation. The inclusion of ship in shipment does not mean that goods are being transported by ship alone as it can mean transportation of goods through land, air or sea as the case may be. Those who do not understand this nuance think of only sea whenever the word shipment is used. In countries where inland infrastructure is well developed, shipment of cargo by trucks is easier and is referred to as the door-to-door shipment. However, in developing countries, air transportation is preferred over road transport because of poor condition of roads.
However, shipping through ships is the lifeblood of world trade as it accounts for nearly 90% of total international trade. It is when the word shipping is used that one can be sure of cargo being moved through sea. Shipping is a verb that is used to refer to the actual transportation through sea routes. On the other hand, shipment does not necessarily mean use of sea.