trade routesWorldTradia 2020

IMAGE DATA: Major World Trade Routes- 2017 Container Traffic

North Atlantic Route – 22,322,000
South Atlantic – 2,054,000
North Pacific – 30,550,000
Mediterranean – 5,504,000
Cape of Good Hope – 1,344,000
North Indian Ocean – 3,340,000

Data Source: World Shipping Council


Maritime trade routes are established sea lanes that are taken by ocean going vessels in the course of transporting passenger or cargo from port of origin to their final port of destination. These lanes are utilized for aesthetic reasons that ranges from ease of navigation, advantage of distance, proximity to port facility, proximity to major markets etc.

The establishment of these routes has helped in the development of some coastal countries that are in close proximity to them. One major example is the city state: Singapore.  Singapore is a country of about 5.6 million people. Pre-1960, Singapore was a poor nation that thrives on fishing and minor regional trade. Its fortune was turned around when it tapped into the volume of sea trade that was presented by the major sea lane that passes through its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The waters of Singapore lies on the busiest sea lane in the world! – The Strait of Malacca (See Major Sea Trade Passages). About 25% of world trade passes through this waters.

Presently, the port of Singapore holds the record for the largest transshipment port in the world.

Major shipping routes of the world

  • North Atlantic Ocean
  • South Atlantic Ocean
  • North Pacific Ocean
  • South Pacific Ocean
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Cape of Good Hope
  • Indian Ocean
  • Oceania

North Atlantic Oceanic Route

This is one of the most strategic trade routes. It links the developed areas of Western Europe with its counterpart in North America. Huge volumes of cargoes are transported through this sea lane. Two of the major liner services on this route are Rotterdam-New York and London-New York.

South Atlantic Oceanic Route

This is the route that links the North American, European Continents, South America and South Africa. It serves as the source of supply of industrial goods from North America and Europe to South America while raw materials such as solid minerals and agricultural products are transported on the return journey.

North Pacific Oceanic Route

This route links East Asia and North America (particularly the West Coast) together. When considering volume and distance, it boasts one of the largest volumes per route and is also longer in distance when compared to other trade routes. Examples of major liner services on this route are Shanghai-Los Angeles and Yokohama-Los Angeles.

South Pacific Oceanic Route

It connects Australia, New Zealand, North America and Western Europe with each other.

Routes of Mediterranean Sea

This route links Asia and the Australian continents with the North Atlantic Ocean routes. The strategic importance of this route is that it joins together the maximum number of countries in the world. Through this waterway the manufactured goods and raw materials of eastern countries are transported to western countries while reversing the flow for industrial goods to the East. One of the major Liner service on this route is Shanghai-Rotterdam.

Cape of Good Hope Route

It links Eastern Asia to North and South America, as well as Europe through the southern tip of Africa. It is an alternative route to the Suez Canal for Ultra Large Crude and Container Carriers as well as large bulk carriers that could not pass through the Suez. Most of the cargoes that passes through this route are either from the Indian Ocean route (Consumer Products from the Far East) or the Middle East (Crude Oil- See World’s Top Traded Commodities).

Indian Ocean Route

Indian oceanic waterways are used by the countries which fall in the vicinity of the Indian Ocean. The major items exported through this route are tea, jute products, mineral ores and import items that are mainly industrial products.

Oceania Route

This route is sandwiched between the Northern and the Southern Pacific Routes. It serves the large numbers of islands that transverse the Pacific Ocean.

NOTE: * – The graphical analysis at the top is designed to give a brief outlook of major World Trade Routes and does not represent the full picture of its totality. For example, the data set  does not contain huge volumes of dry bulk and crude oil shipments that passes through The North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Cape of Good Hope, Indian Ocean, North and South Pacific Routes.