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.
Despite their convenience, these vital points pose several risks:
- Structural risks: As demonstrated in the recent Suez Canal blockage, ships can crash along the shore of a canal if the passage is too narrow, causing traffic jams that can last for days.
- Geopolitical risks: Because of their high traffic, choke points are particularly vulnerable to blockades or deliberate disruptions during times of political unrest.
In 2019, 252 million long tons of goods were transported through the Panama Canal, which generated over $2.6 billion in tolls.
The Suez Canal is an Egyptian waterway that connects Europe to Asia.
In an effort to mitigate risk, the Egyptian government embarked on a major expansion project for the canal back in 2015.
The area is also known to have problems with piracy—in 2019, there were 30 piracy incidents, according to private information group ReCAAP ISC.
Historically, it’s also been a site of regional conflict.
Like the Strait of Malacca, it’s well known as a high-risk area for pirate attacks.
Due to the strategic nature of the region, there is a strong military presence in nearby Djibouti, including China’s first ever foreign military base.