So now the world is following the tale of the boat stuck in the Suez Canal, there's even a website Is The Ship Still Stuck?
everyone's anti-godzilla until there's a 200,000 ton boat that can't be moved— Emma Berquist (@eeberquist) March 27, 2021
For people who don’t work in shipping, these problems have reared their heads over the past year in an endless and seemingly random series of consumer-goods shortages, affecting products as varied as sofas and spandex bike shorts. Now, though, these problems—and the persistent frailty of the global system on which corporations have built our physical world—have a singular visual metaphor in the Ever Given. She is huge, and she is stuck, like I am when I wake up with a hangover. Right now, there’s not enough ibuprofen and red Gatorade in the world.
The most interesting takes, however, aren't the metaphysical ones, but the economic ones.
I’ve spent many hours thinking about the boat stuck in The Suez Canal and I’m pretty sure they need more than one tiny excavator.— Molly Jong-Fast🏡 (@MollyJongFast) March 27, 2021
What is new isn’t the vulnerability of the Suez Canal as a chokepoint, it’s that we’ve intentionally created lots of other artificial chokepoints. And since our production systems have little fat, these systems are tightly coupled, meaning a shortage in one area cascades throughout the global economy, costing us time, money, and lives.
It’s a dumb way to organize a global supply chain system, just as it was dumb to build ships that are too big to fit into canals. And that’s why the "big boat stuck in canal" is such a great illustration of the problem, it shows our policymakers and corporate leaders couldn’t even think through what would happen if Really Big Thing Got Stuck In Important Canal.Yes, the stuck boat has definitely revealed some problems in world commerce, just as the pandemic revealed problems in public health.