Main Maritime Shipping Routes
There is potentially an infinite number of maritime shipping
routes but the configuration of the global system is relatively simple.
The main axis is a circum-equatorial corridor linking North America,
Europe and Pacific Asia through the Suez Canal, the Strait of
Malacca and the Panama Canal.
Maritime routes are a function of obligatory points of passage,
which are strategic places, of physical constraints (coasts, winds,
marine currents, depth, reefs, ice) and of political borders. As a
result, maritime routes draw arcs on the earth water surface as
intercontinental maritime transportation tries to follow the great
circle distance. Main shipping lanes are those supporting the most
important commercial shipping flows servicing major markets.
Secondary shipping lanes are mostly connectors between smaller
The above map provides a simple taxonomy of the
main strategic passages.
- Primary passages. The most important
passages since without them there would be limited cost
effective maritime shipping alternatives which would seriously
impair global trade.
- Secondary passages. Passages that have
alternatives, but would still involve a notable detour.