Maritime Transport Geography

Although the permutations and combinations of shipping trades based on ports of loading and discharge are numerous, there exists a finite number of particularly important trade routes. These trade routes include transit through major maritime canals, such as the Suez Canal in Egypt and the Panama Canal in Panama, and the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. Other important passages include the Bosporus, the Kiel Canal, and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway in Canada.

The Suez Canal, opened back in 1869, connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, enabling ships to transport cargo between Europe and Asia and vice versa without having to navigate round the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. The Suez Canal accommodates the transit of ships up to twenty meters draft or 240,000 DWT. The Panama Canal is a 77 kilometer waterway that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. It is seventy-seven kilometers long and was opened in 1914. The canal operates via a system of locks that enable ships to be lifted up to an artificial lake. Locks are currently 33.5 meters wide, but they are due for enlargement, with a wider lane being constructed.

The Strait of Malacca and Singapore is a narrow waterway between the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra (Indonesia), about 805 kilometers in length but only about twenty-one meters in depth. The strait is extremely important in international shipping because it facilitates efficient passage between the Indian and Pacific Oceans without having to divert the ship around Indonesia and thus losing considerable time and resources. More than fifty thousand ships pass through the strait every year, carrying about 35 percent of the world’s seaborne commodities, including oil, manufactured products, and raw material resources. The maximum size of a vessel that can pass through the strait is referred to as a Malaccamax.

The Bosphorus Strait, the narrowest strait used for international navigation, connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara, which is connected by the Dardanelles to the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, The Kiel Canal links the North Sea to the Baltic Sea. By using the Kiel Canal instead of going around the Jutland Peninsula, ships can save an average of 460 kilometers. The Saint Lawrence Seaway is the name given to a system of locks and channels that connect the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes in Canada.