Ocean Shipping in the Twenty-First Century, a Growing Concern

Ocean shipping in the 21st century is able to move record-breaking amounts of cargo with increasing speed and efficiency. Cargo vessels have been built to accommodate ever-increasing numbers of containers, and bulk carriers are growing in size as well. While the size of tankers for oil and other petroleum products appears to have peaked, that peak is at a very large level. The restraints on capacity for bulk carriers are not mainly a matter of difficulty in design and construction for a larger fleet, but more a matter of where such vessels can operate. For instance, bulk carriers for grain are built to be able to navigate the locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway since so many of these of ships use this route to move grain from the interior of North America out into international waters. Smaller ships must be used on other inland waterways, which is why all the really large ships are used mainly for ocean transit. The Panama Canal also exerts a size limitation on ships. That country is currently working on a multi-billion dollar, multi-year expansion of the locks and channels in the system in order to allow such large ships to pass through. Currently,… read more »