I am working on a project where I want to predict the historical shipping routes, i.e. optimal path from a coastal point A to coastal point B via sea.

I know for optimal path via land, we could take advantage of slope to calculate the least cost path. But for the route over sea, I'm lost here as I don't know what kind of information can be used as a cost layer for sea, especially the cost layer should be historical one.

Do you have any ideas about how to solve this problem through QGIS?

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    Lloyd's Lists is a great source for historic ship navigation data - there was a project about it at Heidelberg University, see: geog.uni-heidelberg.de/gis/WebGIS_Lloyds.html see also the links here: hgis.club/lloyds-lists-verzeichnisse-mit-schiffsnamen That sayed: if you really want more or less accurate data, this could quite turn out to be a multi-year project. I doubt there is a short, simple answer to that kind of question...
    – Babel
    Dec 13, 2022 at 21:31
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    I guess it depends on which historic period and how the ships are powered, sailing ships went from the UK to Australia via Brazil to take advantage of the trade winds for example
    – Ian Turton
    Dec 14, 2022 at 9:49

1 Answer 1


I would think that the navigation routes used today were similar to the navigation routes used historically. Vessel Traffic Data allows you to download AIS equipped shipping routes as GIS compatible data.

  • Thanks! That is very useful! But I noticed that this data is for US only. Do you know if it's possible to get data for the whole world?
    – Sherry
    Dec 14, 2022 at 2:21

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