Sailing around the Cape was the main avenue of trade between these two regions until the construction of the Suez Canal during the mid-nineteenth century, which made international trade and travel more efficient.
Unfortunately, it appears as if we’re about to spend a week in the fifteenth century.
According to the New York Times, one of the world’s largest container ships, the Ever Given, has managed to get stuck horizontally in the middle of the canal. Currently, efforts to dislodge the Ever Given are expected to take several days, perhaps even as long as a week.
This means that companies engaging in international shipping have a difficult decision to make.
Do they wait for an indefinite amount of time to use the Canal, or do they sail around the Cape of Good Hope, which could quite possibly add a significant number of days to a ship’s voyage, but also keep supplies moving consistently and predictably?
“It is like choosing the queue at the post office; it is never the right decision,” Alex Booth, head of research at Kpler, a petroleum shipping firm, told the Times in an interview.
The reaction from the Twitterverse was a combination of amusement and bemusement:
The Evergiven is trapped because there is a current stabbing it to the sides of the canal… an idea how to free it. ? pic.twitter.com/JswmomoHmT
— CDuarte (@CDuarteBenitez) March 26, 2021
I mean, I know these things aren’t five minutes away, but at 9 billion dollars per day, you’d think they’d get some bigger equipment.
Or maybe just more diggers than one. pic.twitter.com/cMNsK9Vr6R
— աօʀӄɛʀ¹³ wearing a ‘ing mask. (@WorkerThirteen) March 25, 2021
I have to think this all started with trash talk on the bridge of the ship with the captain…
“Oh yeah? Like HELL I can’t drive this boat! I could get through the Suez Canal SIDEWAYS if I wanted to..!”
— Todd V (@ToddV2) March 24, 2021
You just know there’s an Irish lad there somewhere trying to redirect the ship out. “Lock her hard lad, hard”
— John Kelly (@Kellyjohn85) March 24, 2021
— MattCave&theBadSeeds (@MattCave_design) March 25, 2021
As ridiculous as this nautical traffic jam may seem on the surface, the consequences are potentially serious. For an unclear amount of time, supplies and resources will be delayed.
Subsequently, NBC News reported that it is reasonable to expect that “anything you see in stores” could see an uptick in prices. Oil prices may go up as well, a daunting prospect when the Biden administration has already declared war on the industry.
American consumers may have a tough few weeks ahead of them as a result of this mishap.
Hopefully, the Ever Given will soon be set free, allowing for business-as-usual to resume. Vasco da Gama’s voyage is something that we should read about in history books, not something we should be emulating.
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