Mapping

Map lets you visualize shipping traffic around the world

Interactive data visualization illustrates the incredible number of ships criss-crossing the world's oceans at any given time
  • May 29, 2017
  • 375 words
  • 2 minutes
View of world's shipping routes Expand Image

Thousands of containers of goods are shipped around the world every day in a global trading process so massive and complex, it can be hard to imagine.

To capture the enormity of the situation, Kiln, a London-based visualization studio, created the beautiful interactive map below: 

Created by London-based data visualisation studio Kiln and the UCL Energy Institute

The map, based on research from the UCL Energy Institute, shows the routes of global merchant vessels carrying cargo in 2012.

Statistics about the cargo itself, such as the number of container slots or weight of goods, are included at the top of the map.

The routes of the ships are represented by lines criss-crossing the bodies of water, as seen in this zoomed-in view of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. 

Expand Image

The environmental cost of global shipping is tracked too, with the carbon dioxide released by ships per hour visible in the top left corner of the map. 

Expand Image

Colourful lines (shown above) distinguish between five different categories of freight: container (manufactured goods), dry bulk (coal, aggregates), tanker (oil, chemicals), gas bulk (liquefied natural gas), and vehicles.

Users can also zoom in to examine different shipping routes and play with the timeline feature at the bottom of the screen to see how time of year affects distribution. In central Canada, for example, ships move up and down the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. The dots even pause, marking ports where the ships unload their wares and take on new cargo before moving back the way they came.

When filtered for type of freight, the map shows that the majority of goods transported in the Great Lakes area were dry bulk goods such as iron ore, coal, cement, and limestone:

Expand Image

While the dots on the map are small, each of them actually represents a very big ship with its own unique crew, cargo and stories. Pick up our July/August issue, on newsstands July 3, to read more about life aboard a giant “laker.” 

Expand Image
Algowood vessel unloading coal at Dofasco in Hamilton, Ontario as part of its cargo operations. (Photo: Thomas Fricke/Canadian Geographic)
Expand Image
A crew member takes a moment to rest aboard the G3 Marquis vessel. (Photo: Thomas Fricke/Canadian Geographic) 

Related Content

Assassin's Creed Odyssey landscape

Mapping

Inside the intricate world of video game cartography

Maps have long played a critical role in video games, whether as the main user interface, a reference guide, or both. As games become more sophisticated, so too does the cartography that underpins them. 

  • 2569 words
  • 11 minutes
The New York Times COVID-19 map

Mapping

Mapping COVID-19: How maps make us feel

Canadian Geographic cartographer Chris Brackley continues his exploration of how the world is charting the COVID-19 pandemic, this time looking at how artistic choices inform our reactions to different maps

  • 1296 words
  • 6 minutes
The War of 1812 giant floor encourages students to interact with history

Kids

Giant floor maps put students on the map

Canadian Geographic Education’s series of giant floor maps gives students a colossal dose of cartography and is a powerful teaching tool

  • 1487 words
  • 6 minutes
historic disease map

Mapping

Q&A: Tom Koch on disease mapping and medical geography

‘Maps aren't magic,’ says University of British Columbia prof — but during disease outbreaks, they can help us sort good information from bad

  • 778 words
  • 4 minutes