are the only practical way to move large amounts of bulk material
between continents, and often, the most cost effective way to move
material from one point to another on the same continent. Unit cost
for bulk transport by ship is approximately one cent per ton mile,
compared to several cents per ton mile by railroad, and several
tens of cents per ton mile by truck.
To reduce the distance that ships have to travel, canals have been
built at key spots. The most famous of these are the Panama Canal,
intended to eliminate passage around Cape Horn at the tip of South
America, and the Suez Canal, intended to eliminate passage around
The Cape of Good Hope at the tip of South Africa.
While these canals cut off thousands of miles from shipping routes,
economics are forcing the use of giant ships which are too large
to pass through the canals. These ships then have to go the long
way around, increasing cost and fuel consumption.
Maglev can rapidly move materials at low cost across land portions
of a shipping route, eliminating the need to travel thousands of
extra miles. Using maglev, a container ship would unload its cargo
at one end of the land portion, or "land bridge". The containers
would then rapidly move via a M-2000 maglev guideway to the far
end of the land bridge, where they would be loaded onto a second
ship, to continue to their final destination.
One possible location for a maglev land bridge across the Isthmus
of Tehuantepac in Mexico. The Tehuantepac land bridge is an alternative
to the Panama Canal, which has reached its limit, both with respect
to the size and to number of ships that it can handle.
In addition to eliminating the trip around Cape Horn, the land
bridge would enable more efficient shipping. For example, a load
of containers shipped from a given European port could be divided
and then loaded on ships bound for different ports in the Far East,
after crossing the Tehuantepac land bridge.
The Suez Canal is even more limited than the Panama Canal, and
is a leading candidate for a maglev land bridge. An even more attractive
candidate is a 5000 mile maglev land bridge across Siberia. Freight
containers could travel between Europe and the Far East in less
than a day, and for much less cost than a 15,000 mile, month long
trip by ship.