Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2018, Vol. 73 ›› Issue (6): 1133-1148.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201806011

• Transportation and • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Vulnerability and risk management in the Maritime Silk Road container shipping network

WU Di1(),WANG Nuo1(),YU Anqi1,GUAN Lei1,2   

  1. 1. College of Transportation Engineering, Dalian Maritime University, Dalian 116026, Liaoning, China
    2. Postdoctoral Research Station of Dalian Port Corporation Limited, Dalian 116026, Liaoning, China
  • Received:2017-06-12 Online:2018-06-10 Published:2018-06-04
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.71372087;National Marine Soft Science Project, No.JJYX201612-1;Key Project of Liaoning Social Science Foundation, No.L15AJY014


The Maritime Silk Road is representative of China's global strategy of this century. The road runs through the western Pacific Ocean, the southern Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the eastern Atlantic Ocean, connecting most of the ports in Eurasia and northeastern Africa from east to west. As world economy dependence on container shipping has been constantly increasing and terrorism has quickly spread, research on the vulnerability and geopolitical risk of the Maritime Silk Road container shipping network is crucial in establishing and improving the security mechanism in the global economy operation, as well as in guaranteeing unobstructed container shipping. Our study specifically addresses this issue through a statistical analysis of all ports and shipping lines in the Maritime Silk Road operated by global container shipping companies in 2015, covering 93% of the global container shipping capacity. The results highlight the presence of 2429 shipping lines and 440 ports in the Maritime Silk Road container shipping network. Based on these statistics, we calculated the rates of change of network average degree, isolated-node proportion, clustering coefficient, network average shortest-path length, network efficiency, and relative size of the largest connected subgraph when the network is under either random or intentional attack. Results indicate that the network is robust under random attack, but vulnerable under an intentional one. We find that the top 53 ports with the largest node strength are hub/mainline ports which require more careful protection, as the network begins to collapse when the intentional attack rate reaches 12%, with a complete collapse when such a rate is 30%. Moreover, by combining geographical features and calculating the rates of change of the network metrics when the main channels in the Maritime Silk Road are interrupted, we find that the straits of Malacca, Taiwan, and Mandeb, as well as the Suez Canal are the most influential channels, thus requiring more attention in terms of protection. In the risk evaluation, the factors determining network vulnerability and survivability are analysed. As for the latter, we find that South Asia is the weakest area in the network. Then, by combining geopolitical and economic factors, we considered the geopolitical risk of the Maritime Silk Road container shipping network. Finally, we formulated corresponding policy recommendations from the perspective of maritime security. Overall, this paper is of great theoretical significance and practical value in the study of vulnerability and risk management of the Maritime Silk Road container shipping network.

Key words: the Maritime Silk Road, container, network, connectivity, vulnerability, risk, survivability