Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Operations Research


Department of Operational Sciences

First Advisor

John O. Miller, PhD


The three food crops of wheat, maize, and rice make up almost two-thirds of the world's dietary energy needs. Of these three, just six countries provide 70% of the global supply. Furthermore, soybeans account for three-quarters of global livestock feed, and only three countries provide 80% of the global supply. Considering over half of the world's exported supply of these four commodities are exported via maritime means, the free ow of marine traffic becomes paramount. Current models lack the ability to capture the inherent variance displayed in the maritime transport system, which can lead to inaccurate assumptions about how the system functions - assumptions that could ultimately bring chaos to an importing economy. To capture this inherent variance, a discrete-event simulation was built to better understand how disruptions in this system impact those who rely on its unhindered functionality. Monthly export data is used, and the maritime chokepoints of the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal, and the Strait of Gibraltar are modeled for disruption. Results indicate significant food shortages for all importers studied, with some receiving 97% less of a commodity in a given month. China is particularly sensitive to a closure of the Panama Canal in the months of September - January. Egypt and Spain could expect significant food decreases if the Strait of Gibraltar were to close in any month, with Spain experiencing its worst declines should a disruption occur in September. Marine traffic through the Strait of Malacca was also significantly impacted when any of the three chokepoints studied were closed.

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