Major Maritime Ranges

Major Maritime Ranges

Source: Adapted from Rodrigue, J-P (2020) “The Geography of Maritime Ranges: Interfacing Global Maritime Shipping Networks with Hinterlands”, Geojournal.

Note: The boundary of many ranges is based on Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). Several EEZs are subject to contention. The boundaries depicted on this map are functional representations and should not be viewed as anything else.

The above map is an attempt to depict the world’s main maritime ranges. These ranges can be used as regional units to monitor changes in commercial activity. Since oceans are not empty entities (e.g. Hawaii in the Pacific), they can be considered as separate ranges that have oceanic boundaries, such as between the Atlantic (1) and the Indian (3) oceans. However, they are more systems of maritime circulation than functional maritime ranges and they account for a marginal share of global port activity. The Arctic (4) is an emerging maritime range with some port activities (e.g. Murmansk, Narvik, Churchill), but limited container traffic. Climate change and the lengthening of the Arctic navigation season have involved additional traffic in the range. The Antarctic is not a maritime range since it has no port activity level and virtually no maritime traffic.

The maritime ranges of the Americas are oriented along the east and the west coasts, with the Caribbean (7) as subsets. Because of North American economic integration (NAFTA), both the West Coast (6) and the East Coast (5) include the United States and Mexico as a single functional entity. The same rationale applies to the inclusion of Canada in the East and West Coast ranges. While for South America, the hinterland boundary is mostly physical (Andean), the North American hinterland boundary is mostly defined by the market areas of rail operators. Still, the northern boundary with the Arctic range remains ill-defined.

European maritime ranges are organized along two main regions, one linked to the Atlantic (British Isles, Europe Atlantic, and Northern Range) and the other to the Mediterranean (East and West). Due to relatively short hinterland distances, all these ranges compete with one another, with the Northern European range (13) assuming a level of dominance. For the African continent, the Southern Mediterranean range (16) represents a specific market of nonintegrated ports servicing their national markets and with limited competition. A similar observation applies to the West African (17), and East African (18) ranges where ports service poorly connected national markets with the setting up of inland corridors at an early stage. The lack of maritime orientation of Subsaharan African ports, particularly in West Africa, is mainly attributed to geography. There is a scarcity of good port sites and limited access to the hinterland through river systems punctuated by waterfalls and rapids and strong seasonal variations in water levels. South Africa (20) represents a specific range because of its higher level of economic development and because it is at the interface between two oceans with growing levels of transshipment.

The Middle East (20) and South Asia (21) ranges are impacted by dual functions of accessing regional economies but also as growing transshipment platforms. Southeast Asia (22) is an archipelago range with a series of ports servicing their respective insular or national markets, with the system articulated by a major hub; Singapore. Conventionally, East Asia was considered a single range corresponding to its standard regional definition, including China, the Korean peninsula, and Japan. The substantial growth in port activity, particularly in China, has necessitated the fragmentation of East Asia into four maritime ranges. Mainland China is divided into three ranges, each corresponding to the hinterland of its three main river systems. Conventionally, the Korean peninsula was functionally part of the Japan range (26), but the trade reorientation of South Korea towards China supports its inclusion in the Yellow Sea range (23). Japan (26) is a specific range due to its archipelago nature, with its ports oriented at servicing the national economy and supporting cabotage. The Russian Far East range (27) is marginal and does not see significant volumes, but the setting up of the Eurasian landbridge is improving its relevance. Last, Oceania (28) covers the range of Australia and New Zealand, which are active resource and agricultural goods exporters.