30 March 2021

A terrorist temptation

Now that a week of effort has finally dislodged the Ever Given from the bank of the Suez Canal, the backlogged flow of trade can get moving again.  But we shouldn't dismiss this as a freak event to be forgotten now that it's over.  We should learn from it, because certain others doubtless have.

Any terrorist group worth its salt has surely noted the massive trade disruption caused by a simple accident.  What if, they must already be thinking, such a huge ship were actually sunk (as far as a ship can sink in such shallow water) at a narrow point in the canal?  What if it were induced to roll violently in the process, dumping half its absurd Jenga tower of shipping containers into the canal in a disorderly heap?  What if such a blockage took months to clear?  And isn't the Panama canal, with its system of locks providing ready-made vulnerable points, even more susceptible to such sabotage?

I don't know what kind of weapon would be necessary to blow a big enough hole in an Ever-Given-size cargo ship to sink it quickly in a pre-determined spot.  A mine would certainly do it -- terrorists would not normally have access to one, but pretty much any rogue state could supply it.  Sabotage from within, by infiltrating or bribing the crew or by an armed gang storming and seizing the ship after it entered the canal, might do it.  The point is, after witnessing the mess created during the week of the crisis, terrorists are likely to think such an act would provide an impressive return on whatever effort they had to invest in it.

As ships get bigger and more overloaded (to lower the per-container cost of shipping), various margins of safety get ever thinner, and the potential consequences of accidents or sabotage become more serious.  It's one more vulnerability for evil people to exploit.


Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Another vulnerability exposed alright.

30 March, 2021 08:30  
Blogger Lady M said...

And all I was thinking about was how that ship drew a penis before getting stuck in the canal.

30 March, 2021 12:08  
Anonymous Annie said...

For an optimist, Infidel, you sure are good at coming up with nightmare scenarios. Now I gotta worry about democracy in America and terror at the Suez Canal simultaneously!

30 March, 2021 19:04  
Blogger Mike said...

This is one of the hazards of 'just in time' parts delivery that companies started doing back in the 80's. Any disruption in the flow of parts brings the whole system to an immediate halt.

31 March, 2021 12:38  
Blogger CAS said...

Yikes. Yes, I was surprised to learn that a single ship could cause such a massive backup. Would have never guessed it.

31 March, 2021 14:04  
Blogger Kwark said...

And in so doing the terrorists would be saying "Stop international trade!" ??? Or is there a more focused reason that's eluding me at the moment?

31 March, 2021 17:51  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Debra: I hope this has occurred to the world's governments.

Lady M: I doubt the terrorists would give us even that degree of entertainment value.

Annie: The world offers plenty of things to worry about, unfortunately. This is far from the worst, but it's a point I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere.

Mike: I've often thought about that. It's dangerous to be dependent on any system with inadequate margins of safety, especially when it has a single critical vulnerable point like this.

Carol: It's partly because the ships have gotten ridiculously large. I don't think the canal was deigned to cope with such colossi.

Kwark: Terrorist attacks often just aim at causing as much damage and disruption as possible, with the connection to the terrorists' supposed goals being murky at best. Most terrorists aren't very rational.

01 April, 2021 04:40  
Blogger Dave Dubya said...

Additional security measures have been implemented and a terrorist attack was thwarted:


Alas, there is still no such thing as absolute security, but the more, the better.

01 April, 2021 09:28  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Figures. Those terrorists are pretty on-the-ball. Lucky the security people are as well.

03 April, 2021 02:34  

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