In this essay we will discuss about water transport and its forms.
Water transport probably developed before the use of animals and greatly aided hunters and fishermen in their activities because waterways formed an easy means of travel in places where dense forests on land hindered movement.
Waterways have, for this reason, often formed the first means of transport in hitherto unexplored regions, e.g. in eastern Canada and North America, in South America, especially the Amazon Basin, and in parts of Africa.
The range and importance of water transport was increased when the power of the wind was harnessed by the use of sails, made first of skins and later of cloth or canvas. At first, boats were small and confined mainly to inland waters and sheltered coastal areas, but even with relatively small craft long journeys could be successfully undertaken, e.g. the movement of the Polynesians who probably migrated to the Pacific Ocean from South-East Asia in early times.
The gradual increase in size and complexity of sailing craft allowed trade to be established. The Phonecians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans of the Mediterranean had wide trading contacts, and the Arabs and Indians traded throughout the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia.
The greatest improvements in sailing ships took place in Western Europe, and culminated in the very complex ships of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Later, the application of steam to water transport greatly reduced the influence of weather conditions, making ships independent of wind conditions so that they were not delayed by calms but could maintain constant speeds.
Steam also gave ships greater power so that they could travel faster and carry larger loads. Ships built with iron and steel instead of wood, and powered by steam were much larger, safer and more efficient than the older sailing ships. Today newer forms of power, especially nuclear power, have been applied to shipping. The tendency is also towards still larger ships.
Apart from ocean transport, inland transport by water is also important. This was first carried out on the existing lakes and rivers but men soon began to modify the channels and courses of rivers and to construct canals. The boats used on inland waterways have also greatly improved and increased in size, speed and efficiency.
The two greatest advantages of water transport are that it uses existing routes, e.g. rivers, seas, and needs no special tracks except in the case of canals; and that it is the cheapest form of transport for large, bulky loads. The increase in size and capacity of ships and barges has, however, had great effects on the economics of transport.
In the first place the greater size of the vessels means that more goods can be carried at one time which has greatly reduced transport costs. Water transport is a cheap form of transport in any case, but the development of large, specialized carriers is making it both cheaper and more efficient.
On the other hand, the greater size of ships and barges today means that many existing channels and rivers are no longer deep or wide enough. More has to be spent in modifying routes, dredging and marking channels. At one time even small rivers could be economically utilized, canals were small and ocean-going ships could travel far inland on estuaries and rivers.
Nowadays only the largest rivers can be economically used, canals must be enlarged and deepened, and ports must be established on deep-water coasts. Many European ports far up estuaries, such as Bristol, Hamburg, Bremen have had to build outports nearer the sea to cope with larger vessels and special cargoes.
Forms of Water Transport:
i. Inland Waterways:
Inland waterways are very varied, both in their natural form and type of craft they can carry. The largest rivers, such as the Amazon, the Chang Jiang (Yangtze Kiang) and Mississippi are capable of carrying large steam craft over long distances while smaller streams may only be usable by tiny canoes or dugouts.
Similarly, the older canals, in many parts of the world, were designed for small craft and may no longer be usable without massive reconstruction. Modern canals such as the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Manchester Ship Canal, however, can carry large craft well inland. Not only is the scale of water transport governed by the nature of the waterways but also by the types of boats used in different parts of the world.
Thus small canoes, sampans or rafts can use many rivers while the specially constructed modern barges are only efficient where the rivers and canals have been improved to specific standards of width, depth and alignment.
There are basically three types of inland waterways, namely rivers, rivers which have been modified or canalized, and specially constructed canals.
In many parts of the tropics as in the Amazon and the Zaire basins and South-East Asia, rivers often play a vital role in the transport of local products where other means of communication, such as railways or roads, are poor or non-existent. In countries such as China, India and Egypt, river basins have been the nuclei of civilization and empire- building. Besides providing water carriage, rivers also supply water for agriculture and daily domestic needs, and often food in the form of fish.
Despite their historic importance both for trade and economic development, however, many rivers in their natural state do not make good modern routes for the following reasons:
(a) Many rivers such as the Ob, Yenisey, Lena, Mackenzie, flow across empty and inhospitable lands into the frozen Arctic Ocean, so that they are of little economic significance despite their great length and volume.
(b) Many large rivers which would be capable of carrying much trade flow through sparsely-peopled or climatically-hostile areas, e.g. the Amazon.
(c) Rivers tend to meander over their flood plains making the distance covered by river much longer than a similar journey by land.
(d) Few rivers are navigable throughout their length and even the lower courses may be interrupted by falls, rapids or cataracts, e.g. the Nile has five major cataracts; other African rivers such as the Zambesi, the Orange, the Limpopo, fall over the edge of the plateau.
(e) Many rivers are too short, too shallow, or too swift to be useful for navigation. This is typical of the rivers of Japan, Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and New Zealand. The narrowness of the countries or the smallness of the islands make rivers of little navigational value.
(f) Many rivers freeze in winter, e.g. the Volga, in the U.S.S.R., is ice-bound for 5 months and the Ural for 6 months. Others fluctuate in volume seasonally, and at low water may not be navigable, while in flood navigation may be too dangerous.
(g) The largest rivers are usually subject to silting, especially near their mouths. This leads to the shallowing of their channels, or to constant change in the position of channels, making navigation difficult. For example, the Paraguay River which is an important routeway for landlocked Paraguay, is subject to much silting, and channels frequently shift their position. It is thus very difficult to navigate.
b. Canalized Rivers:
In regions where efficient transport is essential to industrial development, many rivers have been greatly modified to overcome many of the problems outlined above. They may be dredged regularly to combat silting and maintain a constant depth of water, or navigability may be improved by the construction of dams or barrages which hold back the water and give greater depth. Barrages also minimize seasonal fluctuations in volume.
The banks may be stabilized in areas where shifting channels are a problem. The course may also be straightened to reduce the delay occasioned by wide meanders. In the case of falls, rapids and dangerous narrows, such as gorges, e.g. the Iron Gates on the Danube and the Chang Jiang (Yangtze Kiang) Gorges, the water-level may be increased by dams to give a wider, deeper navigable channel or the rapids may be circumvented by short stretches of canal linking navigable water, e.g. the Welland and Soo Canals between the Great Lakes in North America.
Minor inequalities in the course can be overcome by locks, which are also installed for passing dams and weirs that hold back the water to deepen the channel. Most of the major navigable rivers of the world, e.g. the St. Lawrence, the Rhine, the Elbe, the Rhone, have some or all of these modifications to fit them for efficient modern transport.
River modification often has many advantages other than those of navigation, especially when dams are built. These include H.E.P. generation, water supply, flood control, and amenity value.
Canals are specially constructed channels for either ocean-going or inland vessels. They have been used since ancient times in China and were also built by the Romans in Europe, e.g. the canal between Lincoln and the River Trent in England. The great age of canals, however, came in the late eighteenth century, when industrialization was rapid and road transport was difficult and expensive.
With the rise of railways, which were quicker and also capable of carrying bulky loads, the canals declined in some countries, e.g. England. However, they have remained very important in some regions, notably northern Europe, where, together with modified rivers they form a very extensive network linking all the major industrial areas and providing a cheap form of transport for raw materials such as ores, coal and grains.
The great advantages of canal building are that canals can be made where no natural navigable water exists. Also canals are not subject to natural hazards such as seasonal fluctuations in depth, floods and so on to the same extent as rivers, because the flow of water is controlled.
On the other hand, canals are expensive to build and maintain. The construction cost depends on the nature of the terrain, because where a canal has to cross hills it must do so in a series of locks which are used to raise or lower the water-level. If the land is too hilly it will probably be uneconomic to build a canal.
Where the bedrock is unsuitable, e.g. permeable limestone, canals are also extremely difficult or impossible to build. Nowadays canals have to be deepened and widened, and the locks have to be enlarged to take larger vessels. Construction, maintenance and improvement costs are only justified where there is a large volume of traffic.
In some cases this depends on historical factors. In England, for instance, canals were difficult and expensive to construct over the hilly terrain of the industrial parts of northern Britain. Thus, when the traffic fell as a result of competition from other forms of transport, the canal companies could not afford to improve their canals. Today most canals in Britain are small, narrow and uneconomic or have been entirely abandoned. Many are only used as an amenity by holiday makers and boat enthusiasts.
On the other hand in the low-lying plains of northern Europe, especially in the Netherlands, canals were easy to make and needed fewer locks. They suffered less competition and have been continually improved and enlarged so that they still form a vital and efficient transport system.
Inland waterways of Europe and North America:
Inland waterways are best developed in two continents, Europe and North America:
A number of countries in Europe, e.g. France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and the U.S.S.R., have very extensive inland waterways including both rivers and canals. They are highly competitive with roads and railways in the conveyance of freight, especially bulk goods and raw materials, because although slower they are low-cost.
France, the second largest country in Europe after the U.S.S.R. has 5,600 km (3,500 miles) of navigable rivers and another 4,800 km (3,000 miles) of canals. The major French rivers, e.g. Loire, Garonne, Seine, Rhone, Meuse and Moselle have been modified and improved and are linked by canal systems such as the Canal du Midi, Canal du Centre, Burgundy Canal, Marne and Rhine Canal and Rhone-Rhine Canal.
It is possible to travel entirely by rivers and canals from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel or from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. However, though France has a great length of waterways the traffic is not as great as in Germany or the Netherlands because many of the older canals are only capable of taking small barges with a low carrying capacity.
Germany and other central European countries have many canals. There are 4,640 km (2,900 miles) of inland waterways in West Germany and another 2,400 km (1,500 miles) in East Germany.
Generally speaking, the central European waterways fall into three main groups:
(a) The Rhine Waterway:
The Rhine flows through Switzerland, West Germany and the Netherlands and forms the eastern border of France. It is navigable as far as Basel and is the most important waterway in Europe. It is linked to the River Rhone and the Mediterranean by the Rhone-Rhine Canal and is joined by many tributaries, some of which, including the Main and Moselle, have been canalized. The river has been dredged, straightened and improved over much of its navigable length; it suffers little seasonal fluctuation, seldom floods and is rarely frozen.
Its ideal position, flowing through the industrial heart of Germany makes it the most intensively-used commercial waterway with strings of barges (with capacities of 2,000 tonnes or more each) which move bulky raw materials, e.g. grains and ores inwards and manufactured products outwards.
The Rhine and the Rhone to which it is linked by a large modern canal, are so important for transport that they have become the axis on which trade hinges in the whole of the Common Market. This axial position has stimulated industrial development along both the rivers.
(b) Waterways of the Germanic-Baltic Lowlands:
An extensive network of waterways consisting of east-west canals joining the north-south flowing rivers crosses the North German Plain. The Mittelland Canal, completed in 1938, joins the three major rivers of Ems, Weser and Elbe, and continues eastwards to Berlin and into Poland. Near Hamburg another canal the Kiel Canal, 96 km (60 miles) long and 14 metres (45 ft) deep, links the Elbe estuary to the Baltic Sea, improving access to the Scandinavian countries.
The Dortmund-Ems Canal runs north-south and links the Rhine with the ports of Bremen and Emden. This canal carries raw materials, e.g. iron ore, from Scandinavia to the Ruhr. Canals once took traffic from the Rhine to Berlin, Warsaw, and the port of Szczecin (Stettin) but these eastern canals now only carry local traffic because of the political division of the Iron Curtain and the curtailment of trade between Eastern and Western Europe.
(c) Waterways of Southern Germany:
The region is served mainly by the Danube (Europe’s second longest river, 2,720 km/1,700 miles) which flows through seven different countries—West Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Romania and Bulgaria—before draining into the Black Sea. The Ludwig Canal links the Main, a tributary of the Rhine, to the Danube and allows water- borne traffic from the Black Sea to reach the Mediterranean Sea through the Rhone-Rhine Canal or the Atlantic via the Rhine.
The Danube itself has been modified and is navigable for 2,400 km (1,500 miles) from Ulm (West Germany) down to the Black Sea by fairly large vessels. The river flows away from the main industrial areas and towards the enclosed Black Sea.
As a result, traffic on the Danube is not as heavy as on the Rhine, but recent improvements of the German sections and the deepening of the Iron Gates stretch between Romania and Yugoslavia by the building of a dam, have made it navigable to larger vessels.
The low-lying Netherlands, at the mouth of the Rhine, is criss-crossed by its distributaries and also has extensive man-made waterways. The total length of navigable rivers and canals is about 6,400 km (4,000 miles) which is very great for a country of its size. The densest network is at the Rhine delta, where the Lek and Waal distributaries meet the Maas (or Meuse).
Rotterdam, linked to the North Sea by the deep New Waterway, serves a vast hinterland stretching up the Rhine to Germany, Switzerland, France and Belgium. Amsterdam is joined by the North Sea Canal to the port of Ijmuiden, and much traffic also passes through the Ijsselmeer and the canals of Groningen Province which join the Ems in Germany.
Inland waterways in Belgium total 1,535 km (960 miles) and traffic is considerable. Antwerp was linked with the industrial regions of the Sambre-Meuse Depression and Kempenland by the completion of the Albert Canal in 1940. The canal played an important role in the development of industries in the Kempen land by providing a cheap and efficient line of communications with the major port of Antwerp.
Many industrial plants are sited on the canal-side. Canals on the coastal plain serve the towns of Ghent, Bruges, Zeebrugge and Ostend.
The U.S.S.R. has an immense system of navigable waterways totalling 144,000 km (90,000 miles), the most important of which arc in European Russia, Amongst the more outstanding canals are the Baltic and White Sea Canal, the Moscow-Volga Canal and the Volga-Don Shipping Canal. The vast Volga system links five seas: the Baltic, White, Caspian, Black and the Sea of Azov. Reconstruction and deepening has greatly improved the river and canal system.
2. North America:
In North America, the most important waterway is the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Waterway shared by Canada and U.S.A. It stretches for over 3,760 km (2,350 miles) from Duluth on Lake Superior to the estuary of the St. Lawrence below Quebec, connecting the productive interior with the Atlantic seaboard and bringing ocean shipping to the centre of the continent. Its natural barriers such as rapids, waterfalls, gradient differences and shallow stretches of rivers have been overcome by the construction of locks and canals and by constant dredging to maintain a depth of over 7.5 metres (25 ft) for the use of lake freighters, whalebacks (wheat- carriers) and cargo-barges much larger than those of the Rhine.
The drop of 6 metres (20 ft) by a rapid at Sault St. Marie is avoided by the Soo Canal between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. On the Niagara River, with its falls and rapids between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario there is a drop of 99 metres (326 ft). This is avoided by the Welland Canal first built in 1829, which has seven locks over a distance of 40 km (25 miles).
From Kingston to Montreal for a distance of 320 km (200 miles) the St. Lawrence is shallow and interrupted by many rapids. To improve its navigability, the U.S. and Canadian governments constructed the St. Lawrence Seaway which was completed in 1954. It has a minimum depth of 8.2 metres (27 ft), and has many locks and dams which, apart from improving navigation, generate H.E.P. Below Montreal the St. Lawrence is sufficiently deep for navigation all the way to the Atlantic. Silting is tackled by constant dredging, but in winter from December to March the St. Lawrence is frozen and navigation comes to a standstill.
Goods are stockpiled by consumers during the summer months to avoid shortages in winter or are distributed in winter by railways or roads. The main traffic on the waterway includes trade in iron ore, coal, grains (in particular wheat from the Prairies), timber, furs, dairy products, metallic ores (nickel, copper, gold) and a whole range of manufactured goods.
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Waterway is linked to other important cities by smaller canals, e.g. by the Carillion and Grenville Canals from Montreal to Ottawa; by the Rideau Canal to Kingston; and by the Erie Canal from Buffalo via the Mohawk Gap and the Hudson River to New York.
Despite the fact that the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Waterway is ice-bound for three to four months in a year, the amount of traffic it handles is greater than any other commercial waterway. This is partly because of the brisk trade on the waterway and the large number of vessels engaged, and partly because the ships are large and can carry huge quantities of goods.
In terms of freight charges, the average carrying costs of the Great Lakes carriers are among the lowest in the world because of the perfect load coefficiency attained. Ships that enter the St. Lawrence estuary for the lakeports of the interior with iron ore from Labrador or industrial raw materials from the tropics or manufactured products from Western Europe are fully loaded on their return journey with Mesabi ore, Illinois coal, Prairies wheat, Michigan limestones (for steelworks), Canadian timber or newsprint, American steel and other finished products for distribution around the world. Thus no ship sails empty and the full utilization of shipping reduces the freight costs.
In Canada, many of the north-bound rivers are navigable in summer, e.g. the River Mackenzie from the Great Slave Lake to the Arctic, the Yukon from Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory through Alaska to the Bering Sea, and the Nelson and Albany rivers. These rivers have little commercial importance, however, because of their northerly position.
In the U.S.A. the most important inland waterway is formed by the Mississippi and its many tributaries. Much traffic travels on the Mississippi between St. Louis and New Orleans on the Gulf of Mexico. The main tributaries, modified for navigation, include the Ohio, Arkansas, Missouri and the Tennessee. In the deep South the Intra-Coastal Waterway and the Houston Ship Canal also handle much internal and external trade.
Ocean transport represents the cheapest means of haulage across water barriers that separate producers from consumers kilometres apart. The oceans offer a free highway traversable in all directions, with no maintenance costs, as in roads, railways or canals, and rarely limited by depth as in rivers. Ocean-going ships are capable of carrying far larger loads than railways, road transport, or aircraft.
By increasing the size of the ocean carriers large volumes of world trade can be handled at even lower costs. The introduction of refrigerated chambers for transporting perishable goods such as meat, fruits, vegetables and dairy products and the development of tankers and other specialized ships has greatly improved the efficiency of ocean transport. The use of containers has not only made cargo handling easier but has eased the transfer of goods to land transport by rail or road at the world’s major ports.
The growing size of merchant ships, especially tankers, has, however, somewhat reduced their flexibility. Many are too large to pass through the Suez or Panama canals and some are so large that they cannot pass the Strait of Dover and other shallow straits, e.g. the Strait of Malacca.
The tendency for shipping to become progressively larger means that port facilities must be improved, channels deepened or special offshore loading and unloading facilities installed. Moreover, the move towards greater specialization of cargo means that special facilities must be available at ports for dealing with the appropriate loading or unloading systems. Thus the costs of port facilities may be increased but this is offset by the greater speed and efficiency in cargo handling.
Modern liners and cargo-ships that are driven by powerful engines, and equipped with radar, wireless and other navigational aids are little hindered by wind or weather and can cross the oceans at moderate speeds and reach their destinations on schedule. ‘Freedom of the Seas’ or the right of ships of all nationalities to sail on the high seas has existed since historical times, and territorial restrictions only apply within the territorial waters of coastal nations.
Ocean Trade Routes:
Although the oceans are open highways with few natural barriers, the bulk of the world’s trade passes along certain well-marked routes.
The volume of traffic, the type of shipping and the frequency of services on these routes depend on some of the following factors:
(a) Supply and demand:
There must be goods to carry and a market for them to go to and thus the main trade routes link centres of population, industrial areas, and suppliers of raw materials. The greatest traffic is found on routes between regions where economic development is greatest, e.g. on the North Atlantic.
(b) Availability of ocean terminals:
Major ocean routes are chosen to allow shipping to stop at well- equipped ports-of-call where they can refuel, take on food and water, take advantage of other services, and where goods-handling, financial services and so on are readily available. The main trade routes thus link the world’s major ports such as London, Rotterdam, Hamburg, New York, Yokohama, Singapore, Colombo, San Francisco and Honolulu, etc.
(c) Absence of physical barriers:
Ocean shipping is hampered by few barriers and powered vessels are relatively independent of weather conditions, but ships still prefer to follow well-known routes which have been carefully surveyed, charted and pronounced safe for shipping. The greater size of many vessels today makes this even more important than in the past.
Charts are of particular importance in straits and shallow seas where the shape and position of the channel may change, e.g. the Strait of Malacca and the English Channel. In such regions routes are carefully marked by buoys, and lighthouses or lightships warn of shoals or rocks. In some cases, e.g. in the English Channel, a one-way system for shipping is operated to avoid collisions between ships in narrow channels.
(d) Nature of the cargo:
Perishable goods, mail, urgently-needed machinery, or medical supplies, as well as most high-value cargoes are sent by the shortest possible routes. These are often great circle routes and may have far fewer ports of call. For such commodities shippers can afford to pay higher freight rates for the sake of speedy service.
General cargoes on the other hand may follow longer routes with many stops, but freight rates are low. Thus certain types of cargoes may be found on particular routes. For passenger vessels engaged in tourist cruises the route followed will obviously be dictated by the ports-of-call, chosen for their climatic, historical, scenic or other attractions.
(a) The North Atlantic route:
On both sides of the North Atlantic are located regions of very dense population and varied industrial activities. Some of the world’s largest sea terminals are located in Rotterdam, Antwerp, London, Southampton, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester (via the Manchester Ship Canal), Le Havre, Hamburg, Goteborg, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo.
These ports fringing the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the English Channel are the outlets of the rich agricultural, commercial and industrial regions of Europe. Large quantities of manufactured items: textiles, chemicals, machinery, fertilizers, steel, wine, are exported from these ports across the North Atlantic to the United States and Canada.
In north-eastern North America is another string of large ocean terminals, favourably located for trade around the world and with Western Europe in particular: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Montreal, Quebec, Toronto (through the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Waterway). The exports that go eastwards to Western Europe are more bulky and include large quantities of foodstuffs and raw materials: wheat, animal feedstuffs, cotton, tobacco, paper, woodpulp, timber, nickel, copper, as well as manufactured goods such as iron and steel, machinery, transport equipment, chemicals, textiles and clothing.
The foreign trade of the North Atlantic region is greater than that of the rest of the world combined. The route has also been traditionally served by fleets of luxury passenger liners that ply between New York and Southampton and other European ports, but with cheaper air fares and frequent air services, most passengers now prefer the speedier air routes.
(b) The Cape of Good Hope route:
This route was once the subsidiary alternative to the Suez Canal route, but because of its long and circuitous journey (longer than the Suez Canal route by 6,400 km/ 4,000 miles between Liverpool and Colombo) was avoided by most shipping companies. But with the closure of the Suez Canal in 1967 oil tankers, tramps and liners had no choice but to take this route. Even after the Suez Canal reopened in 1975 much trade continued to follow this route, partly because tankers and other vessels are nowadays much larger.
The closure of the Suez Canal has therefore boosted the trend towards larger tramps and tankers. By taking larger cargoes the costs of the longer journey can be offset and charges can be reduced. As the Suez Canal can only accommodate ships of around 20,000 tonnes capacity and toll charges are high, the Cape route is growing in importance. It has several other advantages.
With the greater economic development of the recently independent African nations and the exploitation of their rich natural resources such as gold, copper, diamonds, tin, chromium, manganese, cotton, oil palm, groundnuts, coffee and fruits, the volume of traffic round the Cape of Good Hope and from ports in both East and West Africa is on the increase.
(c) The Mediterranean-Suez-Asiatic route:
The importance of this route linking Europe with the Far East began with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. The route was once considered the ‘life-line of Britain’ because oil supplies from the Middle East and tropical raw materials and food-stuffs from the Asiatic colonies came through Suez.
Manufactured products and semi-finished goods went by way of the Suez and the refuelling port of Aden, to Bombay, Karachi, Colombo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Fremantle, and other Australian ports. Goods also went to East Africa, Durban and Cape Town via the Suez Canal. Other European nations also made heavy use of this short-cut to their Afro-Asian markets. With the opening of the Panama Canal in 1913, some traffic, especially that destined for New Zealand and the Far East, was diverted, but traffic on the Suez Canal route continued to increase.
As a result of the Arab-Israeli War in 1967, however, the Suez Canal was closed to all traffic and its strategic importance as- a major world trade route came to an abrupt end. Egypt naturally suffered greatly from the loss of revenue, amounting to millions of dollars annually from tolls, but the far-reaching effects on trade, as a result of the closure, were felt by all nations that made use of the Suez Canal, especially Britain, West Germany, France and Japan.
Although the Suez Canal is now open again and carries a great deal of traffic it can never regain its former strategic or economic importance, partly because of the political insecurity of the Middle East as a whole and partly because of the larger tonnage of today’s shipping.
The trade of the Mediterranean ports, e.g. Tel Aviv, Port Said, Marseilles, Genoa, Venice, Athens, Gibraltar, Algiers and Istanbul was affected by the closure of the Suez Canal, but has revived. Oil is sent across the Arabian Desert by long-distance pipelines from the Persian Gulf oilfields to the Mediterranean terminals at Banias, Tripoli and Saida (Sidon), for shipment to Europe, instead of going by tanker round the Cape of Good Hope.
This is not only more economical but the fastest way of transporting the oil to Europe. The oilfields in Libya and Algeria were for a time far more important to Europe since the closure of the Canal because they are closer to Europe. This speeded their development, but they have now again given place to larger Gulf producers.
(d) The Panama Canal-West Indian-Central American route:
This route, which came into use in 1913 with the completion of the Panama Canal, eliminated the long and hazardous voyage round the stormy Cape Horn. The Panama Canal is ‘the gateway to the Pacific’. It has benefited countries on both Atlantic and Pacific seaboards, facilitating the trade in minerals, oil, foodstuffs, raw materials and manufactured products. But the greatest benefits have accrued to traffic between the east and west coasts of the United States.
Almost half the volume of shipments through the Canal is domestic traffic of the U.S.A., e.g. the transport of Californian fruits, Prairies wheat, Pacific North-West timber to eastern U.S.A.; and the shipment of textiles, chemicals, machinery and other manufactured goods from Atlantic America to western U.S.A. and Canada.
The Panama route has also greatly facilitated trade in the West Indian islands and the Pacific states of North, Central and South America, especially the Andean states which are rich in mineral resources and have good markets in North America. The Latin American states import manufactured goods and mining equipment from the U.S.A. and the Western European countries.
Much trade destined for the Far East, the Pacific islands and Australasia from North America and Western Europe also goes through the Panama Canal. With the greater economic development of East Asian countries especially China, Japan and the South-East Asian states, the Panama route is assuming a greater role in the exchange of products between the East and West.
The distance saved from Auckland to New York via Panama, instead of Cape Horn, is more than 4,000 km (2,500 miles). Plans are being formulated for a larger canal with fewer locks to cope with increasing traffic but this would require immense capital investment and might never repay its initial cost. Apart from the Panama Canal traffic there is also a brisk trade between the Caribbean states and the Gulf Coast ports of the U.S.A., including Venezuelan oil, Guyanan bauxite and fruit from the West Indies and Central America.
(e) The South Atlantic route:
The ocean traffic in the South Atlantic is far less than that of the North Atlantic, because it connects regions of sparse population and more limited economic development. Only south-eastern Brazil, the Plate estuary and parts of South Africa have large-scale industrial development. There is also very little trade on the east-west route between Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town, since both Africa and South America have similar products and resources.
There is some coastal trade amongst the South American republics from Brazil to Argentina, round Cape Horn to Chile, Peru and the northern Andean states. A fair volume of traffic also passes between the eastern South American countries and Western Europe and North America.
Coffee and cocoa from Brazil; wheat, meat, wool, flax, and other products from Argentina are sent to the industrial countries of the North Atlantic in return for manufactured and semi-finished commodities. Ships call at Spanish and Portuguese ports en route, and many stop at Madeira, the Azores or the Canary Islands for refuelling.
(f) The Trans-Pacific route:
Trade across the vast North Pacific Ocean goes by several routes which converge at Honolulu, ‘the cross-roads of the Pacific’, for refuelling and servicing. The direct route further north in a great circle, which links Vancouver and Yokohama without calling at the Hawaiian Islands, reduces the travelling distance by half.
The ocean terminals that serve the North Pacific trade include Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles on the American side, dealing with wheat, timber, paper and pulp, fish, dairy products and manufactured goods. Their destinations across the 7,200 km (4,500 mile) wide Pacific are usually Yokohama, Kobe, Shanghai, Guangzhou (Canton), Hong Kong, Manila and Singapore.
The east-bound trade from East Asia to North America consists mainly of manufactured goods, e.g. textiles, electrical equipment, from Japan, Hong Kong, S. Korea, and Taiwan, and tropical raw materials from South-East Asia, e.g. rubber, copra, palm oil, teak, tin and tea. In addition to international links, the North Pacific is an important domestic routeway from the U.S. mainland to the isolated states of Alaska, in the north, and Hawaii in the mid-Pacific.
In the South Pacific, the traffic consists mainly of ships travelling via the Panama Canal between either Western Europe or North America and Australia, New Zealand and the scattered Pacific islands. Goods transported are mostly wheat, meat, wool, fruits, dairy products and manufactured articles.
The distance covered is enormous. It is 10,380 km (6,490 miles) from Panama to Wellington, and 12,280 km (7,675 miles) between Panama and Sydney, but the countries of Australasia have no choice if they wish to trade with North America.