In shipping, Sea passages are either natural or artificial ocean lanes that serve as link between major ocean passages/trade routes.One major significance of these passages is that they are limited in size when compared in size to the open oceans they link to.

Examples Include:

  • Dover Strait
  • Strait of Malacca
  • Strait of Hormuz
  • Suez Canal
  • Panama Canal
  • Artic Route

Among these, the busiest Passages are the Dover Strait and the Strait of Malacca.

The Dover Strait is the world’s busiest shipping lane. 500-600 ships a day pass through the narrow strait between the UK and France. Cargoes include oil from the Middle-East to European ports, and various commodities from North and South America to European customers. In 1999, 1.4 billion tonnes gross, carried by 62,500 vessels passed through the Dover Strait.

Strait of Malacca, which is a narrow passage off the Malaysian Peninsula,  handles more traffic (vessels), but less tonnage than the Dover Strait.

Strait of Hormuz is the strait between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. It provides the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea. It holds a strategic importance in global crude oil shipment industry. For example in 2011, an average of 14 tankers per day passed out of the Persian Gulf through the Strait carrying 17 million barrels (2,700,000 m3) of crude oil. This represented about 35% of the world’s seaborne oil shipments and 20% of international oil trade. More than 85% of these oil exports were shipped to Asian markets, with China, Japan, India and South Korea being the largest destination.

Suez Canal is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. It allows ship transport between Europe and eastern Asia without navigation around the Horn of Africa. The canal is 193.30 km (120.11 mi) long, 24 m (79 ft) deep and 205 meters (673 ft) wide as of 2010. It consists of the northern access channel of 22 km (14 mi), the canal itself of 162.25 km (100.82 mi) and the southern access channel of 9 km (5.6 mi).

  • Suez Canal handles about 8 percent of world trade.
  • The Gulf of Aden and Suez Canal are the main trade routes for dry commodities and containerized cargo — manufactured goods — between Asia, Europe and the Americas.
  • The Suez Canal is the third major source of income for Egypt.
  • About 30% of Europe’s oil imports passes through the canal.
  • 2012 revenue worth around $5.13 billion as a result of the passage of 17,252 ships with a total cargo of 932.43 million tons.
  • 2011 revenue worth around $5.222.700 billion as a result of the passage of 17,407 ships with a total cargo of 924.947 million tons.
  • Importance & Advantages of the Canal
  • It is the shortest marine link between the east and the west due to its unique geographic location; it is an important international navigation canal linking between the Mediterranean sea at Port Said and the red sea at Suez.
  • It accommodates the partially loaded VLCCs (Very Large Crude Carriers and ULCCs (Ultra Large Crude Carriers).

Panama Canal is an artificial sea passage in Panama that links the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. The canal is uniquely made up of series of Canal locks and gates which connects to an artificial lake. The lake which 26m (85ft) above sea level is created to reduce the volume of excavation work that would have been done if the connecting water channel was constructed at sea level. The pre-2016 the size of vessels the canal can accommodate is known as Panamax. With the expansion work that was completed in 2016 the canal can accommodate vessels that are designated as neo-Panamax in size.

Artic Route is an emerging shipping route in the Artic Ocean, north of Russia has been opened up by global warming. This route cuts thousands of kilometres (miles) — and many days — off the journey from China to its key European market.

  • The journey through the Artics takes about two weeks faster than through the Suez Canal.
  • The route is open for about four months in a year. Global warming might increase this window and make the route more accessible.
  • The route will slash shipping times, thus cutting costs and fuel consumption.


See also: Global Sea Trade-Routes