Sunday 28 March 2021

Suez Shipwreck

International trade has been thrown into turmoil yet again, just as it was attempting to restart as the pandemic lockdown eases. The cause of this breakdown is astonishingly small and, at first glance, insignificant. A single ship has run aground. What makes it so catastrophic is the type of ship and the place it ran aground. The ship is called MV Ever Given and she's a Golden-class container carrier, one of the biggest in the world, displacing 230,000 tons gross. She is 1,312 feet long, 192 feet in beam and can carry 20,000 containers. At the time of her accident she was fully loaded and it happened in the Suez Canal. The story goes that the navigation crew lost control of the vessel due to high winds and the ship was blown again one of the canal banks. She is currently wedged crossways in the canal, completely blocking it. There is an attempt to refloat Ever Given by dredging the bank where she is trapped and pulling her with tugs. Source: So far this has not worked and there is already talk of a more long-term salvage operation involving unloading her cargo and fuel. This could take weeks. In the meantime there is a massive marine traffic jam building up at both ends of the canal. Ships can always divert, but this means sailing around the entire continent of Africa which would take ten to fifteen days or even longer, depending on the speed of the ship and its seagoing endurance. That will make transportation costs rise. The canal was constructed in the 1860's to provide a shortcut so that international shipping could avoid that slog.
The wreck of MV Ever Given demonstrates how fragile the globalist resource-based economy is. This is partly because all the quickest and most efficient sea lanes are dependent on the Suez Canal, which for some of its 120 miles stretch is just a single channel; which unfortunately is where the shipwreck is. The canal is so important that in October 1956 there was a war fought over it involving Egypt, Israel, France and Britain. Some people have suggested that the grounding is an act of sabotage to cause a new economic crash, but I can find no evidence for this so far. Even leaving aside the shipping subject, this crisis is a product of general globalization. In times past it wouldn't have been so serious because all nations had a manufacturing sector. Today the world is treated economically as a single giant nation and the heavy industry has been shifted to the Far East. Former industrial heartlands in Europe and North America are now just "rust belts". This means international freight transport is needed more than ever, hence the advent of the super-container carriers like Ever Given. In a pre-globalized world Western nations would have picked up the shortfall through their own factories and mines, but now we can't. Britain, for example, is one hundred percent reliant on imports, from commodities to manufactured goods. That narrow channel through the Egyptian desert is the horsehair by which our economy dangles. When I was a teenager I wanted to be a sailor and was very sad when that career never worked out. With retrospect it might be just as well. Maritime life today is a stressful and dangerous occupation, see: The Suez shipwreck debacle should make us all aware of this terrible system and work to try and change it.
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