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Wouter Jacobs and Robert Horster

Commodities are the lifeblood of the world economy. They are shipped globally in enormous quantities in both volume and value. Yet what is often ignored by transport geographers and (maritime) economists alike is the way commodity markets themselves function and how the performance of these markets influences the demand for freight and, as such, the geography of waterborne transportation. In this chapter we argue that the waterborne transportation of commodities is nested in a complex system; one that is defined by price movements and by transactions across manifold agents that engage in some form of risk in the physical supply of essential production inputs. Based upon a complexity perspective on commodities trading, we present an alternative mode of analysis about the functioning of waterborne shipping of commodities in increasingly volatile markets defined according to optionality and risk.