[Article] Mapping the World’s Key Maritime Choke Points

Research Article_s Economics

Maritime transport is an essential part of international trade—approximately 80% of global merchandise is shipped via sea.

Thierry Warin https://www.warin.ca (HEC Montréal & CIRANO (Canada))https://www.hec.ca/en/profs/thierry.warin.html
04-06-2021

Mapping the World’s Key Maritime Choke Points

Maritime transport is an essential part of international trade—approximately 80% of global merchandise is shipped via sea.

Because of its importance, commercial shipping relies on strategic trade routes to move goods efficiently. These waterways are used by thousands of vessels a year—but it’s not always smooth sailing. In fact, there are certain points along these routes that pose a risk to the whole system.

Here’s a look at the world’s most vulnerable maritime bottlenecks—also known as choke points—as identified by GIS (Ang 2021).

What’s a Choke Point?

Choke points are strategic, narrow passages that connect two larger areas to one another. When it comes to maritime trade, these are typically straits or canals that see high volumes of traffic because of their optimal location.

Despite their convenience, these vital points pose several risks:

The type and degree of risk varies, depending on location. Here’s a look at some of the biggest threats, at eight of the world’s major choke points (Ang 2021).

A Closer Look: Panama Canal Choke Point

Despite their vulnerabilities, these choke points remain critical waterways that facilitate international trade. In order to understand the importance of the Panama Canal to the global trade, let’s provide some context.

The Panama Canal is a lock-type canal that provides a shortcut for ships traveling between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Ships sailing between the east and west coasts of the U.S. save over 8,000 nautical miles by using the canal—which roughly shortens their trip by 21 days. In 2019, 252 million long tons of goods were transported through the Panama Canal, which generated over $2.6 billion in tolls (Ang 2021).

Alternative of Panama Canal Choke Point

Because of it’s high risk, an alternative of the Panama Canal route has been proposed in the project entitled “Canadian Northern Corridor Research Program” (Warin 2021).

For instance, in order to analyse the potential impact of the Northern Corridor on the global maritime traffic, we took more than 20 000 ship voyages passing through the Panama Canal and calculated their marine distances.

To analyse the applicability and the profitability of the Canadian Northwest Passage, we took the same 20 000 routes and make them passed hypothetically through the Canadian Arctic.

We then compared the distances to see which trips were shorter by the Northern Corridor. Out of these 20 000 routes, more than 9000 are shorter in distances by the Northern Corridor (distances are in nautical miles). Here’s a look at some of these routes.

Port 1 Port 2 Port3 Port 4 Total distance
COVE POINT SAKAI SAKAI MELKOYA -23510.31
MARCUS HOOK YANTAI YEOSU MARCUS HOOK -22178.82
COVE POINT HIMEJI HIMEJI COVE POINT -21382.07
COVE POINT SAKAI SAKAI COVE POINT -21363.37
COVE POINT SAKAI HIMEJI COVE POINT -21330.18
COVE POINT HIMEJI SAKAI COVE POINT -21330.18
NIIGATA DAMPIER DAMPIER NAGOYA -20848.46
COVE POINT YOKOHAMA YOKOHAMA COVE POINT -20812.21
COVE POINT YOKOHAMA YOKOHAMA COVE POINT -20812.21
COVE POINT YOKOHAMA YOKOHAMA COVE POINT -20812.21

This change of route through the Northern Corridor passage would inevitably affect the world trade. Therefore, we have put together a top 10 list of countries that would be most affected by this new route. By looking at the numbers, the United States is the country with the most number of stops for each port. Followed by Japan, South Korea and China.

Country, Port 1 No. of Stops Country, Port 2 No. of Stops Country, Port 3 No. of Stops Country, Port 4 No. of Stops
United States 3657 United States 3207 United States 4095 United States 4409
South Korea 1118 China 1528 Japan 1479 Japan 1274
Japan 1099 Japan 1474 South Korea 892 China 662
China 864 South Korea 869 Panama 697 South Korea 604
Mexico 521 Mexico 241 China 468 Panama 209
Panama 311 Ecuador 194 Mexico 221 Taiwan 190
Ecuador 178 Panama 143 Colombia 197 Ecuador 175
Canada 175 Taiwan 113 Taiwan 178 Mexico 162
Peru 164 Canada 110 Ecuador 123 Canada 122
Colombia 154 Netherlands 105 Peru 94 Peru 120

Impact of Northern Corridor Passage on Trade

As we observed above multiple countries might be affected by this change of maritime route. One important aspect that might especially affected is the trade of these countries. To observe this possible change, we decided to extract the exports and imports per partners in 2019 from UN Comtrade of the countries that we listed above.

The table below represents the top 5 partners in terms of exports for the United States, Japan, South Korea and China. For each of these countries, we notice that the top 5 partners contains at least 2 countries of the reporters.

Reporter Partner Value of Exports
China USA $418,584,249,557
China China, Hong Kong SAR $279,616,723,587
China Japan $143,223,969,123
China Rep. of Korea $110,984,861,672
China Viet Nam $98,004,332,828
Japan USA $140,428,150,263
Japan China $134,679,995,997
Japan Rep. of Korea $46,269,029,213
Japan Other Asia, nes $43,000,304,509
Japan China, Hong Kong SAR $33,622,102,897
Rep. of Korea China $136,202,533,208
Rep. of Korea USA $73,598,903,629
Rep. of Korea Viet Nam $48,177,748,735
Rep. of Korea China, Hong Kong SAR $31,905,989,747
Rep. of Korea Japan $28,420,167,955
USA Canada $292,338,433,401
USA Mexico $256,371,086,497
USA China $106,626,645,076
USA Japan $74,650,662,375
USA United Kingdom $69,100,919,866

The table below represents the top 5 partners in terms of imports for the United States, Japan, South Korea and China. For each of these countries, we also notice that the top 5 partners contains at least 2 countries of the reporters.

Reporter Partner Value of Exports
China Rep. of Korea $173,553,266,864
China Other Asia, nes $172,801,013,883
China Japan $171,523,312,054
China Areas, nes $130,724,271,877
China USA $123,235,656,498
Japan China $169,211,629,028
Japan USA $81,247,520,538
Japan Australia $45,455,291,303
Japan Rep. of Korea $29,624,993,474
Japan Saudi Arabia $27,661,558,004
Rep. of Korea China $107,228,162,271
Rep. of Korea USA $62,105,137,072
Rep. of Korea Japan $47,579,038,346
Rep. of Korea Saudi Arabia $21,840,580,617
Rep. of Korea Viet Nam $21,071,556,716
USA China $472,464,913,744
USA Mexico $361,320,937,424
USA Canada $326,628,559,104
USA Japan $146,974,311,374
USA Germany $129,857,182,082

It would be interesting to look at the commodities possibly impacted by this new route. We took the most important partner of each country in terms of exports.

Reporter Partner Commodity Value of Exports
China USA Electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof; sound recorders and reproducers; television image and sound recorders and reproducers, parts and accessories of such articles $106,227,997,087
China USA Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances; parts thereof $86,576,689,216
China USA Telephone sets, including telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks; other apparatus for the transmission or reception of voice, images or other data (including wired/wireless networks), excluding items of 8443, 8525, 8527, or 8528 $48,119,159,900
China USA Automatic data processing machines and units thereof, magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, not elsewhere specified or included $43,653,137,798
China USA Automatic data processing machines; portable, weighing not more than 10kg, consisting of at least a central processing unit, a keyboard and a display $35,582,282,917
Reporter Partner Commodity Unit Quantity
1 China USA Electrical apparatus; transistors, (other than photosensitive), with a dissipation rate of less than 1W Number of items 8,074,450,000
3 China USA Electrical apparatus; diodes, other than photosensitive or light-emitting diodes (LED) Number of items 5,918,677,488
4 China USA Brooms, brushes (including parts of machines), hand operated floor sweepers, mops and feather dusters; knots and tufts for broom or brush making; paint pads and rollers; squeegees Number of items 3,397,858,831
5 China USA Electrical apparatus; photosensitive, including photovoltaic cells, whether or not assembled in modules or made up into panels, light-emitting diodes (LED) Number of items 3,259,714,220
7 China USA Electronic integrated circuits; n.e.c. in heading no. 8542 Number of items 2,708,543,617
Reporter Partner Commodity Value of Exports
Japan USA Vehicles; other than railway or tramway rolling stock, and parts and accessories thereof $49,076,378,930
Japan USA Motor cars and other motor vehicles; principally designed for the transport of persons (other than those of heading no. 8702), including station wagons and racing cars $38,847,451,661
Japan USA Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances; parts thereof $32,304,356,576
Japan USA Vehicles; with only spark-ignition internal combustion reciprocating piston engine, cylinder capacity over 1500 but not over 3000cc $24,572,897,746
Japan USA Electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof; sound recorders and reproducers; television image and sound recorders and reproducers, parts and accessories of such articles $14,736,909,508
Reporter Partner Commodity Unit Quantity
Japan USA Pens; nibs and nib points Number of items 4,111,975,303
Japan USA Electrical apparatus; photosensitive, including photovoltaic cells, whether or not assembled in modules or made up into panels, light-emitting diodes (LED) Number of items 3,769,679,000
Japan USA Electronic integrated circuits; n.e.c. in heading no. 8542 Number of items 1,935,121,900
Japan USA Petroleum oils and oils from bituminous minerals, not crude; preparations n.e.c, containing by weight 70% or more of petroleum oils or oils from bituminous minerals; these being the basic constituents of the preparations; waste oils Weight in kilograms 1,784,248,554
Japan USA Granulated slag (slag sand) from the manufacture of iron or steel Weight in kilograms 1,704,600,000
Reporter Partner Commodity Value of Exports
Rep. of Korea USA Vehicles; other than railway or tramway rolling stock, and parts and accessories thereof $21,819,037,656
Rep. of Korea USA Motor cars and other motor vehicles; principally designed for the transport of persons (other than those of heading no. 8702), including station wagons and racing cars $15,978,061,472
Rep. of Korea USA Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances; parts thereof $14,927,476,076
Rep. of Korea USA Electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof; sound recorders and reproducers; television image and sound recorders and reproducers, parts and accessories of such articles $12,624,313,549
Rep. of Korea USA Vehicles; with only spark-ignition internal combustion reciprocating piston engine, cylinder capacity over 1500 but not over 3000cc $9,643,258,294
Reporter Partner Commodity Unit Quantity
Rep. of Korea USA Petroleum oils and oils from bituminous minerals, not crude; preparations n.e.c, containing by weight 70% or more of petroleum oils or oils from bituminous minerals; these being the basic constituents of the preparations; waste oils Weight in kilograms 6,647,086,762
Rep. of Korea USA Petroleum oils and oils from bituminous minerals, not containing biodiesel, not crude, not waste oils; preparations n.e.c, containing by weight 70% or more of petroleum oils or oils from bituminous minerals; not light oils and preparations Weight in kilograms 6,343,618,000
Rep. of Korea USA Cyclic hydrocarbons Weight in kilograms 1,026,874,818
Rep. of Korea USA Cyclic hydrocarbons; benzene Weight in kilograms 907,462,800
Rep. of Korea USA Portland cement, aluminous cement (ciment fondu), slag cement, supersulphate cement and similar hydraulic cements, whether or not coloured or in the form of clinkers Weight in kilograms 775,798,733
Reporter Partner Commodity Value of Exports
USA Canada Vehicles; other than railway or tramway rolling stock, and parts and accessories thereof $51,219,126,844
USA Canada Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances; parts thereof $44,379,677,276
USA Canada Electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof; sound recorders and reproducers; television image and sound recorders and reproducers, parts and accessories of such articles $24,771,604,927
USA Canada Mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation; bituminous substances; mineral waxes $24,408,421,910
USA Canada Commodities not specified according to kind $19,010,495,160
USA Canada Commodities not specified according to kind $19,010,495,160
Reporter Partner Commodity Unit Quantity
USA Canada Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals; crude Weight in kilograms 26,650,445,376
USA Canada Oils; petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude Weight in kilograms 26,650,445,376
USA Canada Petroleum oils and oils from bituminous minerals, not crude; preparations n.e.c, containing by weight 70% or more of petroleum oils or oils from bituminous minerals; these being the basic constituents of the preparations; waste oils Weight in kilograms 22,482,506,846
USA Canada Petroleum oils and oils from bituminous minerals, not containing biodiesel, not crude, not waste oils; preparations n.e.c, containing by weight 70% or more of petroleum oils or oils from bituminous minerals; light oils and preparations Weight in kilograms 15,806,393,679
USA Canada Iron ores and concentrates; including roasted iron pyrites Weight in kilograms 8,460,827,000
Ang, Carmen. 2021. “Mapping the World’s Key Maritime Choke Points. Visual Capitalist.” March 30, 2021. https://www.visualcapitalist.com/mapping-the-worlds-key-maritime-choke-points/.
Warin, Thierry. 2021. Warint/corridoR. https://github.com/warint/corridoR.

References

Citation

For attribution, please cite this work as

Warin, "www.warin.ca: [Article] Mapping the World’s Key Maritime Choke Points", , 2021

BibTeX citation

@article{warin2021[article],
  author = {Warin, Thierry},
  title = {www.warin.ca: [Article] Mapping the World’s Key Maritime Choke Points},
  journal = {},
  year = {2021},
  note = {https://warin.ca/posts/article-choke-points/},
  doi = {}
}