Suez Canal debacle: lessons to be learned

The Ever Given, which had been blocking the Suez Canal since last Tuesday, has been refloated. The 400-metre-long container ship was dislodged by tugboats and dredgers, with help from an unusually high tide on Sunday night due to the full moon. For around 370 waiting ships the wait to pass through the waterway connecting Europe and Asia will soon be over.

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El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Trade routes must be better secured

Locations that are so strategic for world trade should be better secured, says El Periódico de Catalunya:

“This episode should be an occasion for us to learn some lessons that apply on a global scale. If things are confined to clarifying responsibilities and compensating the injured parties according to the terms negotiated with the insurance companies, that clearly doesn't go far enough. There are too many interests at stake for us not to mobilise the necessary means to prevent, as far as possible, a repetition of the scene at the canal at other vulnerable points of the major trade routes.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Stranded in gigantism

Covid and this shipping accident have something in common, Corriere della Sera explains:

“The stranding of the Ever Given is the final chapter in a story that began over a century ago with the ambitious idea of progress. ... It's no great stretch of the imagination to compare the 'stranded giant' with the pandemic: it has brought the planet's trade to its knees, paralysed traffic, brought tourism to a standstill. ... We have seen that the consequences of an epidemic are not confined to a Chinese province or even a single continent, just as the desert sands have repercussions from Wall Street to Shanghai, from the Volkswagen factories to the department stores in London and Tokyo. The Ever Given is the metaphor of a pointless gigantism vis-à-vis the possibilities of the natural and organisational context.”

NZZ am Sonntag (CH) /

Self-sufficiency is just a myth

For the NZZ am Sonntag global economic interdependence is de facto irreversible:

“A single blocked ship has disrupted global trade. We have become too accustomed to being able to buy a gigantic selection of goods at the push of a button - promptly delivered and often at increasingly cheap prices. ... It has taken this stranded container ship to make us realise how intertwined the international supply chains really are. ... It sounds tempting when politicians increasingly preach self-sufficiency and a halt to globalisation. But the fact is that trade will continue to grow in the future. The advantages for our consumer society are just too great.”

Adevărul (RO) /

The clock is ticking

Adevărul explains what is at stake financially:

“According to the US Department of Energy, more than ten percent of the world's oil transport and about eight percent of the liquefied natural gas transport passes through this sea route. If the block lasts a few days, it's not a problem and the setback can be quickly made up for. If, however, the delays last a few weeks, it will become worrying for the transport companies because the costs for an alternate route via Africa would increase dramatically.”

Les Echos (FR) /

Nothing is ever a given

The cargo ship's plight is another reminder after the pandemic that we need to be more aware of risks, business paper Les Echos concludes:

“For companies, this is one more reason to work on the hypothesis that nothing is ever a given (as the name of the ship Ever Given suggests): health, the ability to produce in one place, pass through another, the offer of a supplier or the financing of an investor. And that the most inconceivable sequence of events is not necessarily the most improbable. We still have a lot to learn when it comes to agility, resilience and creativity.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Wind or human error?

Because we are so fixated on efficiency, we ignore the working conditions in maritime transport, author Rose George notes in The Guardian:

“Although the official reason given so far for the Ever Given's plight is that it was blown sideways by wind, I do wonder. In the vast majority of maritime accidents, human error is at fault. And no wonder: seafarers, working in ever smaller crews on ever larger ships, are knackered. ... Over the years, ships have been getting bigger and bigger, the better to bring us 90% of world trade ... But that efficiency comes at a price: of ships reliant on this one waterway to get to the bounties of Asia, and of crews who spend months away from home.”

Irish Independent (IE) /

Long a disaster for the marine world

The Irish Independent draws attention to the ecological effects of the intensive use of the trade route:

“Hundreds of species of fish, jellyfish and crustaceans that lived tough lives in the saltier Red Sea have swum, hitchhiked or been swept away in the currents northwards and flourished in the more hospitable Mediterranean waters. They have overrun native species, damaged local stocks, grazed marine plant life bare and present a hazard to leisure activities and tourism. The problem has been observed for years but expanding the canal to create parallel channels along one of its busiest sections in 2015 appears to have escalated the takeover.”