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Infographic: Global shipping routes, mapped using GPS data

A new infographic uses GPS to map out the world's shipping routes over a year's time.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

A new infographic uses GPS to map out the world's shipping routes over a year's time.

Courtesy of German researchers at Carl von Ossietzky Universitat, the map is based on the data for a year's worth of itineraries from actual cargo ships -- 16,693 of them, actually -- gathered from LLoyd’s Register Fairplay and the Automatic Identification System, which tracks vessels partly by using GPS.

It's from a paper entitled, "The complex network of global cargo ship movements” (.pdf) by Pablo Kaluza, Andrea Kölzsch, Michael T. Gastner and Bernd Blasius that will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the Royal Society: Interface.

A few takeaways from the report:

  • Different ship types (container ships versus oil tankers, etc.) move differently depending on their cargo.
  • Shipping and aviation networks have strong similarities.
  • As much as 90 percent of world trade is hauled by ships.
  • In 2006, 7.4 billion tons of goods were loaded at the world's ports.
  • The worldwide maritime network also plays a crucial role in today's spread of invasive species, and estimated at $120 billion per year of financial loss in the U.S. alone.

The report also listed the world's "most central" ports. Here are the Top 20 by volume and reach:

  1. Panama Canal (Panama)
  2. Suez Canal (Egypt)
  3. Shanghai (China)
  4. Singapore
  5. Antwerp (Belgium)
  6. Piraeus (Greece)
  7. Terneuzen (The Netherlands)
  8. Plaquemines (Louisiana, USA)
  9. Houston (Texas, USA)
  10. Ijmuiden (The Netherlands)
  11. Santos (São Paulo, Brazil)
  12. Tianjin (China)
  13. New York and New Jersey (USA)
  14. Europoort (The Netherlands)
  15. Hamburg (Germany)
  16. Le Havre (France)
  17. St Petersburg (Russia)
  18. Bremerhaven (Germany)
  19. Las Palmas (Canary Islands, Spain)
  20. Barcelona (Spain)

Fascinating stuff.

[via Wired Science]

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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