Water Transport

Water transport is one of the oldest modes of transport. Man has been navigating in oceans, rivers and lakes since ancient times. This is the cheapest mode of transportation and is specially useful to transportation of heavy cargo. Water transport is cheaper because the friction of water is far less than the friction of land or air and the energy cost of transportation is much lower. Water transport can be divided into three groups:

  • Ocean Routes
  • Inland Waterways
  • Canal Water Transport

Ocean Routes

Ocean routes provide cheaper and easier mode of transportation of bulk commodities and are the main channels of international trade.

Following are some important ocean routes:

  • The North Atlantic Route
  • The Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean Route
  • The Suez Canal
  • The Cape of Good Hope Route
  • The South Atlantic Route
  • North Pacific Route
  • South Pacific Route
  • The Panama Canal

Inland Waterways

Rivers, canals and lakes are the main medium of inland waterways. These were very important means of transport in old days, but they have lost much of their significance with the advent of roadways and railways.The navigable water bodies are coned to the following areas:

North America

The following are two great inland waterways systems in North America:

The Great Lakes’St. Lawrence waterway

The Mississippi river system


France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and European Russia are some of the countries of Europe which have developed inland waterways. A well-knit close network of inland waterways has been developed along the rivers Rhine, Rhone, Seine, Meusc, Weser, Ems, Elbe, Oder, Denube, Dnieper, Don, Volga etc. Most of the rivers are interconnected through canals. One can travel through rivers and canals from the Mediterranean Sea to the North Sea.


Inland waterways are comparatively better developed in China and India than other parts of the continent. China has many large rivers but some of them, especially in the eastern part, are more developed for water transport. The He, Chang, Jiang rivers are navigable.


Following five have been declared as national waterways:

  • Allahabad-Haldia stretch of the Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly river system
  • Sadiya-Dhubri stretch of the Brahmaputra river
  • Kottapuram-Kottam stretch of west coast canal
  • Kakinada-Puducherry stretch of canal and Kalurelly Tank stretch of Godavari and Krishna Telcher-Dharma stretch of river Brahmni
  • Barak River from Lakhpur to Bhanga as the sixth National Waterway is under consideration.

South America

The Amazon river with its tributaries provides about sixty thousand kilometres of navigable routes. Ships can reach Manaus, 1,600 km upstream, while river steamers can ply in the river upto Iquitos in Peru which is 3,680 km from the Atlantic Ocean in the east. Parana is navigable for ocean vessels upto Santa Fe, located at a distance of 240 km. Paraguay provides accessibility to river steamers upto Asuncion.

Major navigation canals of the world

Canal Joining Areas
1. Suez Mediterranean Sea to Red Sea
2. Panama Pacicean to Atlantic Ocean
3. Keil North Sea to Baltic Sea
4. Soo Lake Superior to Lake Huron
5. Manchester Manchester to Escham
6. North Sea North Sea to Amsterdam
7. Stalin or Rostor to Stalingrade Don-Volge
8. New Shipping canal North Sea to Rotherdam Canal
World Geography