Is International Shipping About to Collapse?

With increased  scrutiny through the lens of geopolitical tensions and economic forecasts, the narrative of international shipping facing imminent collapse has gained attention. 

This perspective, notably forwarded by Peter Zeihan, hinges on the vulnerabilities posed by the Panama Canal, threats from Houthi rebels in the Red Sea, and the simmering global tensions that could ostensibly disrupt the arteries of international trade. However, a closer examination by experts at O’Meara & Associates challenges this bleak prognosis, offering a more nuanced understanding of the current state and future resilience of global shipping.

The Stability of US-China and US-EU Trade Lanes

At the heart of international trade are the bustling corridors that connect major economic blocs. The trade lanes between China and the United States, as well as between the European Union and the United States, stand as two of the world’s busiest, measured by the dollar value of goods transported. 

Contrary to the notion of imminent peril, these routes have demonstrated remarkable stability. The relationship between the US and China, pivotal for the Pacific trade lane, is at its warmest since around 2013, predating recent tensions. This Pacific route, stretching from China’s southeastern coast directly to the US west coast, encounters no significant geopolitical threats that could impede its operation.

Similarly, the Atlantic trade lane, linking the EU and the US, benefits from an absence of geopolitical obstacles, ensuring its continued viability. These routes underscore a foundational stability in the world’s most critical trade pathways, undeterred by the specters of conflict that loom elsewhere.

Navigating Through Potential Hotspots: Panama Canal and Beyond

The Panama Canal, a critical conduit for shipping between the US East Coast and Asia, remains secure despite geopolitical complexities in its vicinity, such as Venezuela. The strategic importance of maintaining uninterrupted access through this canal has been well recognized, with no credible threats from regional actors who are aware of the mutual benefits derived from global trade.

Concerns regarding the Red Sea and the potential for piracy or conflict affecting shipping routes have been addressed with a pragmatic outlook. While these issues do impact specific trade lanes, notably around the Suez Canal, they do not broadly affect the primary trade flows between the US and China, or between the US and the EU. The situation is monitored closely, with hopes pinned on diplomatic and military efforts to ensure the security of these waterways for EU/China trade.

The Broader Geopolitical Landscape

The analysis further ventures into the geopolitical dynamics influencing global trade, from the Horn of Africa’s piracy issues to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The resilience of Russia’s economy amidst sanctions and the strategic recalibrations by European nations in response to energy challenges highlight the complex interplay of international relations and trade.

The potential for a bifurcated global economy is a poignant observation, with a division emerging between a coalition led by North and South America, the EU, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, and a contrasting bloc comprising other nations, with China and India occupying unique positions that bridge these emerging divides.


In dispelling the notion of an imminent collapse in international shipping, O’Meara & Associates provide a compelling analysis that, while acknowledging the challenges, underscores the robustness and adaptability of global trade networks. 

The intricate balance of geopolitical, economic, and logistical factors that define international shipping continues to evolve, but the foundational pillars supporting the world’s major trade lanes remain steadfast. This resilience, rooted in strategic interests and mutual dependencies, suggests a future for international trade that, though not without its challenges, is far from the precipice of collapse.

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