Current shipping routes and martime traffic (2016)

Vessel traffic in 2016 has been plotted by EMSA (European Maritime Safety Agency) from AIS data in density map format. This density has been calculated based on number of signals per grid point during a two week period. Red dots in coastal and port areas represent a much higher density of ships compared to areas of blue dots. The four maps below represents seasonal variations in traffic in 2016. From a maritime spatial planning perspective, it is essential to look at seasonal variations in traffic intensity as it may allow for other parallel activities in place of shipping during some parts of the year, in specific areas.

February 2016


The map shows vessel traffic for the first quarter of 2016, based on AIS data. It has been calculated using AIS transponders on ships. The following ships are required to have a certain transponder:

  • Ships of 300 gross tonnage (gt) and above engaged on international voyages
  • Cargo ships of 500 gt and upwards not engaged on international voyages
  • All passenger ships irrespective of size

The map clearly shows the predominant shipping routes on a North Sea Region scale.


May 2016



It is clear that all areas of the North Sea are predominantly occupied by shipping activities, although the highest concentration of shipping activities are located along the coastal and central parts which are trafficked by transit ships and supply vessels.


August 2016


Summer months are clearly the busiest in all parts of the North Sea including the coast of UK, that is, the route from the English Channel to the entrance of Skagerrak and around the south coast of Norway. Subsequently, port areas and inland waters are also busier (red areas).


November 2016


The last quarter of the year shows less activity as compared to other quarters. It is visible in particular in coastal and inland waters as well as in the route from the English Channel to the northern part of Denmark.