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Visualizing Global Trade

Posted February 27, 2015

In the wake of the recent tentative settlement of the protracted labour dispute that dramatically impacted shipping at container ports along the west coast of the United States, Scott Neuman, a blogger at National Public Radio, thought it was an appropriate time to promote a gorgeous video from FleetMon, a German-based global ship tracking service, which provides a powerful visual representation of just how vibrant are the world’s shipping lanes.

Neuman writes: “The video shows satellite tracking of routes superimposed over Google Earth. It focuses on some of the main choke points for international shipping, such as the Strait of Malacca on the southern tip of Malaysia, the Suez Canal, the Strait of Gibraltar and the Panama Canal. It’s a good reminder that about 90 percent of all the goods traded globally spend at least some of their transit time on a ship.”

It can be difficult at times to fully grasp the enormity and complexity of global trade flows, something that mere arrays of data and statistics simply fail to communicate with any effectiveness to anyone other than perhaps economists, so an arresting visualization such as this, capturing vessel movements over the course of a typical week as seen from space, is definitely an illuminating experience.