Geopolitics

Risk Lessons, From A Grounded Ship In Suez To A Global Pandemic

A pandemic and a maritime accident teach us the same lessons: humility, fragility and ultimately human ingenuity. Risk is impossible to predict, except that we know it always exists.

The Ever Given, currently stuck in the Suez Canal
The Ever Given, currently stuck in the Suez Canal
Jean-Marc Vittori

-OpEd-

A monster made out of steel can also fear the elusive Aeolus. This is the case for the Ever Given. A gust of wind was enough to make this enormous container ship — longer than the Eiffel Tower and twenty times heavier — run aground in the Suez Canal.

This incident has nothing to do with the pandemic that has devastated the planet for a year ... except that these stories teach us the same lessons. First, it teaches us to be humble. Humans know how to design an artificial heart, but they are still unable to control a virus that has already killed nearly three million women and men. We also know how to build a giant ship capable of weathering storms while carrying 20,000 metal containers, a system that has revolutionized freight transport. And yet, we can't prevent this ship from blocking a vital artery of global trade.

Rescue experts are now hoping that Mother Nature will free what she has blocked and that a tide will be enough to counteract the effect of the winds on Ever Given.

Hundreds of ships are waiting at the entrance of the Suez Canal — Photo: Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua via ZUMA Press

It's also a lesson about our own fragility. A virus invisible to the naked eye was enough to cause an unprecedented drop in global activity last year that is being counted in the trillions of dollars. A gust of wind was enough to block a channel through which more than 10% of global trade and two million barrels of oil pass every day. Hundreds of ships are already waiting at the entrance to the waterway, and may eventually have to resort to going around Africa to reach their destination. In this case too, the costs would be high. Trade journal Lloyd's List talks about a figure close to $10 billion per day.

For the virus as for the Suez Canal, the solution comes or will come from the ingenuity of a few individuals.

For companies, this is one more reason to work on risk mapping, keeping in mind that nothing is "ever a given" (as the name of the ship suggests): health, access to markets, the possibility of manufacturing here or passing through there, an offer from a supplier or funding from a investor. The most unlikely chains of events are not necessarily the most improbable. We are not done talking about agility, resilience and creativity.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

Trying To Gauge Russian Ambitions? Look How Nervous Its Nordic Neighbors Are

The eyes of the world are on the Russian-Ukrainian border as Putin threatens an invasion. However, the more vital stage of the Kremlin’s military ambitions is the Baltic Sea, where the likes of bordering countries like Finland and Sweden are mobilizing troops as Moscow tries to undermine the allegiance of the EU and former Soviet states.

A military from the Swedish Armed Forces

Carl-Johan Karlsson

While tensions between the U.S and Russia mount with the Kremlin gathering troops at the border of Ukraine, countries farther north are preparing for the worst.

In Sweden, Dagens Nyheter reports that the country of 10 million people deployed armored vehicles and 100 soldiers to patrol streets on the island of Gotland on Friday in response to Russian landing ships sailing into the Baltic Sea. Even if the Swedish Armed Forces announced soon after that the ships were leaving, serious questions about Russia's military ambitions remain.

Keep reading... Show less
Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ