What Is The Busiest Shipping Lane In The World?

These are extraordinary times for the shipping industry, with each week bringing fresh news of long backlogs at ports, freight companies booked up for weeks in advance, a shortage of containers, and dire warnings about the supply chain. Cargo vessels have never been more in demand, but which is the busiest shipping route in the world?

You might be surprised to learn that the answer is much closer to home than you thought: the Strait of Dover at the narrowest point of the English Channel is widely agreed to be the busiest. It connects the UK to mainland Europe by the shortest possible sea route, at around 20.7 miles between Dover and Cap de Gris Nez, near Calais.

The strait is used by more than 500 vessels each day, and shipping lanes are strictly enforced by HM Coastguard and the Maritime Gendarmerie in order to maintain safety. Because of its manageable distance, the strait also attracts swimmers making an attempt at a Channel crossing, and people in novelty vessels such as jetpacks and bathtubs.

Geologists agree that at one time around 5000 BC, the Strait of Dover was a wide river channel, and the UK was linked at this point to the rest of Europe. The Channel Tunnel, which was built between 1987 and 1991, and officially opened in 1994, absorbs some of the freight transport, but the shipping lanes remain busy, both for passenger and goods vessels.

Because of its proximity to mainland Europe, the area has seen plenty of unrest and historical events. The Strait of Dover was the setting for the famous subduing of the Spanish Armada in the 16th century, and the naval battles of World War I with the Flanders Flotilla.

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