Historically, coastal and inland shipping was the earliest means of moving relatively large amounts of goods among population centers. The latter was reliable and safe when land road networks did not exist or were primitive. The relative ease of moving cargo by water routes also encouraged the development of populated settlements near water. Nations grew around their ports, where domestic waterborne commerce intersected with blue-water shipping activities.
Over time, the development of more extensive road systems, railroads, and reliable powered trucks began to replace waterborne carriage. In the United States these developments from the mid-19th century onward offered cost savings and flexibility that some short-haul shipping routes could not.