Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2018, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (7): 881-899.doi: 10.1007/s11442-018-1511-z

• Special Issue: Geopolitical Environment Simulation on the Belt and Road Region • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A fine-grained perspective on the robustness of global cargo ship transportation networks

Peng PENG1,2(), Shifen CHENG1,2, Jinhai CHEN3,4, Mengdi LIAO5, Lin WU6, Xiliang LIU1,7, Feng LU1,7,8,*()   

  1. 1. State Key Laboratory of Resources and Environmental Information System, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3. Navigation Aids Technology Research Center of Jimei University, Xiamen 361021, Fujian, China
    4. National & Local Joint Engineering Research Center for Marine Navigation Aids Services, Xiamen 361021, Fujian, China;
    5. College of Geomatics, Shandong University of Science and Technology, Qingdao 266590, Shandong, China
    6. Institute of Computing Technology, CAS, Beijing 100190, China
    7. Fujian Collaborative Innovation Center for Big Data Applications in Governments, Fuzhou 350003, China
    8. Jiangsu Center for Collaborative Innovation in Geographical Information Resource Development and Application, Nanjing 210023, China
  • Received:2017-07-01 Online:2018-07-20 Published:2018-07-20
  • Contact: Feng LU;
  • About author:

    Author: Peng Peng (1989-), PhD Candidate, specialized in maritime transportation GIS, complex network analysis. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    Key Project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.ZDRW-ZS-2016-6-3;National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41501490


The robustness of cargo ship transportation networks is essential to the stability of the world trade system. The current research mainly focuses on the coarse-grained, holistic cargo ship transportation network while ignoring the structural diversity of different sub-networks. In this paper, we evaluate the robustness of the global cargo ship transportation network based on the most recent Automatic Identification System (AIS) data available. First, we subdivide three typical cargo ship transportation networks (i.e., oil tanker, container ship and bulk carrier) from the original cargo ship transportation network. Then, we design statistical indices based on complex network theory and employ four attack strategies, including random attack and three intentional attacks (i.e., degree-based attack, betweenness-based attack and flux-based attack) to evaluate the robustness of the three typical cargo ship transportation networks. Finally, we compare the integrity of the remaining ports of the network when a small proportion of ports lose their function. The results show that 1) compared with the holistic cargo ship transportation network, the fine-grain-based cargo ship transportation networks can fully reflect the pattern and process of global cargo transportation; 2) different cargo ship networks behave heterogeneously in terms of their robustness, with the container network being the weakest and the bulk carrier network being the strongest; and 3) small-scale intentional attacks may have significant influence on the integrity of the container network but a minor impact on the bulk carrier and oil tanker transportation networks. These conclusions can help improve the decision support capabilities in maritime transportation planning and emergency response and facilitate the establishment of a more reliable maritime transportation system.

Key words: complex network, fine-grained, cargo ship transportation network, robustness, automatic identification system