Did You See This?

So Much Water, So Many Ships

An incredible visualization of global shipping traffic.

This video shows the phenomenal amount of global shipping traffic in a single September week in 2012. It’s an eye-popping visualization based on terrestrial and satellite AIS data gathered by FleetMon, a company that tracks vessels for the world’s shipping companies. We’re talking tankers, cargo ships, tugboats, yachts, ferries, and cruise ships. So many boats!

Each vessel is shown as a light-green dot, and there are so many streaking across the Earth’s waters that it’s like watching sparks flowing through electrical circuits, or like peering into the Matrix. Even with oceans as vast as they are, the video makes it hard to believe that the seemingly unlimited number of ships don’t see each other regularly—there are just so many of them crisscrossing the seas. Here and there, solitary vessels cross open water, but the shipping lanes look like futuristic freeways at rush hour.

FleetMon tracks ships using AIS (Automatic Identification System) signals. AIS is an international system that was created as a means of avoiding collisions, but has since grown to be the primary means of identifying and monitoring nautical traffic worldwide.