Source: Notteboom, T. and J-P Rodrigue (2009) "The Future of Containerization:
Perspectives from Maritime and Inland Freight Distribution", Geojournal,
Vol. 74, No. 1, pp. 7-22.
Circum-Hemispheric Rings of Circulation
The setting of a
global "containerized highway" involving continuity between inland and
maritime transport systems is expected as containerization continues
to diffuse. For the northern hemisphere
where the bulk of economic activity takes place, this would involve
three major rings or circulation; the equatorial ring, the middle ring
and the speculative arctic ring.
The shortest path to circum-navigate the world is the so-called
circum-equatorial route using the Panama Canal, the
Strait of Gibraltar, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Malacca. Two of
these shortcuts are manmade, implying that prior to their construction
significant additional detours were imposed through the Cape of Good
Hope (southern Africa) and the Strait of Magellan (southern America). In
the age of globalization, this simple pattern remains a fundamental
element shaping global maritime routes that are mostly composed of
longitudinal and latitudinal connectors.
The circum-equatorial route
can be perceived as a conveyor belt where high
capacity and high frequency containerships are assigned and would interface
with the middle ring at specific high throughput transshipment hubs.
The widening of the Panama Canal will improve the operational efficiency
of the system, placing it close to parity with the capacity of the Suez
Canal. Under such circumstances, the setting of true bi-directional
and high frequency round-the-world services could finally take place.
The most important ring of circulation, the middle ring, is composed
of two large continental rail land bridges linked by transatlantic and
transpacific connectors. One, the North American landbridge, is fully
operational while the other, the Eurasian landbridge, is still a concept.
The middle ring requires a full fledged maritime / land interface with
major gateways and corridors. The arctic ring is problematic as a full
ring of circulation, but specific maritime bridges could be established
(e.g. Narvik - Churchill), which would complement the middle ring.