Suez e Mediterraneo - Il ruolo dell'Italia| CDP

Suez and alternative routes: Italy's future in maritime trade

The blockage of the Suez Canal at the end of March 2021 has focused attention on the importance of the Suez Canal in international maritime trade and possible alternative routes. The importance of the Mediterranean basin is still clear in this context, but what are the other development trends for global maritime trade? What are the opportunities and new challenges for Italy? These and other questions are the focus of our new Think Tank brief, that analyses the characteristics and recent dynamics that are defining international maritime traffic and Italy’s future in an evolving context.


Read the key message from the report and download the document for further information.

  • 90% of international trade is by sea. In this context, the Suez Canal is one of the key nodes.
  • In 2019 alone, 1.2 million tonnes of cargo and around 19,000 ships (more than 50 per day) passed through Suez. The blockage of the Canal between 23 and 29 March 2021 has renewed interest in possible alternative routes for global trade, with a particular focus on the Arctic Route.
  • The Arctic Route is only passable for three months of the year at present, but as the ice melts, it could become increasingly competitive due to the shorter travel distance and the resulting cost savings.
  • However, it is hard to imagine that the Arctic Route could completely replace the Mediterranean Route, and it will not be fully passable until at least 2040.
  • The increased focus on the ecological transition will hopefully slow down the melting of the ice and make the Arctic Route navigable for just a few months of the year.
  • On the other hand, it seems likely that the Mediterranean Sea will continue to play a central role in the future, since it currently serves a third of global container liner services and has taken the lead in terms of trade growth in recent years.
  • The dynamics of other trends that are revolutionising maritime trade will also be relevant to the fate of routes. Including: shipping gigantism, carrier consolidation and vertical integration between operators in the sector.
  • Italy's central position in the Mediterranean means that it must identify the measures needed to redefine its position in maritime trade and, more generally, in international trade.
Read the brief