UA Prof. Schaller: The Ever Given saga has been years in the making – Arizona Daily Star

Posted: April 4, 2021 at 5:18 pm

In this photo released by Suez Canal Authority, the Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship, is pulled by one of the Suez Canal tugboats, in the Suez Canal, Egypt, Monday, March 29, 2021. Engineers on Monday partially refloated the colossal container ship that continues to block traffic through the Suez Canal, authorities said, without providing further details about when the vessel would be set free. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)

By Michael SchallerSpecial to the Arizona Daily Star

The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

For nearly a week, the public gaped at the spectacle of a grounded cargo ship blocking the Suez Canal. The sheer magnitude of the Evergreen Ever Given, as long as the Empire State Building is tall and loaded with over 18,000 shipping containers, boggles the mind.

A widely shared photo of a comparatively tiny earthmoving machine attempting to dislodge it resembled a Tonka toy in a sandbox. An unusually high tide finally freed the vessel. The backlog of hundreds of ships caused losses estimated at $10 billion per day.

During the distant mostly pre-container years of 1967-1975, the war-related closure of the Suez Canal only marginally impacted global commerce. Today, a weeklong blockage is a crisis. How, many wonder, did we get here?

We often think of the internet and communication satellites as central to modern commerce. But global trade relies upon a combination of old and new technologies.

For centuries, oceangoing vessels carried both bulk commodities and luxury goods ranging from Chinese silk and porcelain to African slaves, from sugar and cotton to iron ore around the world.

After 1945, high-value manufactured goods, such as German and Japanese automobiles, were profitable enough to transport globally. Although bulk products such as petroleum and grains could also be shipped profitably, it was impractical to transport many low-value manufactured items like wicker baskets or T-shirts from low-wage producing countries to wealthy consuming nations.

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UA Prof. Schaller: The Ever Given saga has been years in the making - Arizona Daily Star

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