Revelation of global golden waterway crisis

Editor’s note: the crisis of the freighter “Changci” has focused the world on the Suez Canal. The blockage is still continuing, and the trade market is in fear. As one of the “golden waterways” in the world, the experience of Suez Canal is an obvious signal: while shipping is being held by important waterways, the irreplaceable risk is also rising. Whether it is the Suez Canal, which has been “blocked” by giant ships, or the Panama Canal, which is frequently short of water, or the Strait of Malacca, which is under the struggle of many parties, one man is in charge of the pass and ten thousand people are not allowed to open it.


Suez Canal’s expensive “one of two” and long 193 km

The 151 year old Suez Canal has once again become a global focus because of the stranding of a boat. From the open dispute between Britain and France to several wars, from the cover up of sand to the closure of external forces, the origin of the name “golden waterway” has been bumpy. In this 193 kilometer canal, there are hidden stories of the rise of Egyptian economy, the change of the fate of the Mediterranean, and countless commodities crossing the sea.

if one man guards the pass , ten thousand are unable to get through

17 meters, local time on March 27, in the world’s eagerness, the “Changci” finally moved after several days of grounding in the Suez Canal. It was six years ago that the Suez Canal made the world’s headlines. On August 6, 2015, with a construction period of 12 months, the new Suez Canal, which costs about 8.5 billion US dollars, was officially opened.

But no one would have expected that even if it had been widened and deepened, the Suez canal would still be completely “stuck” by a ship six years later. This is not the first time. In April 2016, a large container ship named 153514dwt ran aground, resulting in the suspension of the canal, and eight ships were stranded. On November 26 last year, a super large container ship named al muraykh ran aground in the Suez Canal, blocking other southbound ships for more than five hours.

Right now, the crisis is more than eight boats and five hours. At a press conference on the 27th, Usama Rabiye, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, said that there are 321 vessels on the canal waiting for navigation. Even if we have to wait, there is no plan to make a detour for the time being. After all, the cost is high. Take the journey of “Changci” to Holland as an example. It takes about 12 days for the freighter to sail from Suez Canal to Amsterdam at the speed of 12 knots, while it takes 41 days to bypass the Cape of good hope in South Africa. The voyage will increase by about 10000 km, with an additional cost of 7 million Rand.

The obvious choice is the secret of Suez Canal becoming the “golden waterway”. It is located in the north of Egypt and connects the three continents of Europe, Asia and Africa. The Suez Canal is the fastest passage between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. Compared with bypassing the Cape of good hope, it can shorten 5500-8000 km from the Atlantic coast of Europe to the Indian Ocean and 8000-10000 km from Mediterranean countries to the Indian Ocean.

The Suez Canal has become Egypt’s largest “cash cow”. Today, 22% of the world’s containers pass through the Suez Canal, accounting for about 10% of Global trade. Together with tourism, oil and remittances, the Suez Canal has become the four pillars of Egypt’s economy. In 2020, the Suez Canal will pass through 18829 ships, about 1.17 billion tons, with a total annual revenue of about US $5.61 billion.

Yu Guoqing, a researcher at the Institute of West Asian and African Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the Suez Canal is very important to Egypt. On the one hand, the Suez Canal is an important source of fiscal revenue. The annual revenue is very stable, and has been rising steadily in recent years. On the other hand, the Suez Canal is also a project that Egypt can carry out strategic influence, such as adjusting relations with some countries Relationship.


Fight openly and rob secretly

Gold and silver are only in recent decades. In the more than a century after navigation, the Suez Canal has almost been spent in the sound of visible or invisible artillery fire.

In the records of Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, senuslet III of the twelfth Dynasty of Egypt tried to build a canal connecting the Red Sea and the Nile River, known as the “Pharaonic canal” at the latest from the mid-19th century BC. Under the wind and sand of two thousand years, the Pharaonic canal has long been turned into the dust of history. With the advent of the era of grand navigation and the popularity of steam power, the African route around Cape of good hope and Cape Horn has become the focus of Global trade. Coupled with the decline of Egypt, the value of the canal has also been eclipsed.

In the middle of the 19th century, France and the Egyptian government jointly established the international Suez Canal Company, which was officially started in 1859. Ten years later, at the cost of human and financial resources, the Suez Canal officially opened in November 1869.

According to the “preferential certificate” between France and Egypt, the actual control and huge profits of Suez canal are controlled by France, which makes Britain envious. In order to seize this lifeline, Britain rose to be a major shareholder by buying shares of the international Suez Canal Company. In 1882, Britain sent troops to occupy Egypt and completely occupied it.

It was 74 years later that the Suez Canal was nationalized by Egypt. But then the Middle East War broke out, and the Suez Canal became the front line of confrontation between Egypt and Israel. It was closed for eight years, and it was not reopened until 1975.

Since then, the rise of oil exports in the Persian Gulf, the Suez Canal has a greater use. According to the statistics of Suez Canal administration, from June 1975 to June 2000, the transit fee of Suez Canal amounted to US $30 billion, which is six times of the total revenue of the transit fee from November 1869 to June 1969.

be threatened by growing crises

At present, the “Changci” is stranded on the gold road of the Suez Canal. According to the Suez Canal Authority, the Suez Canal lost as much as $14 million a day in revenue due to the stranding accident.

Yu Guoqing said frankly that Egypt’s response to emergencies is still obviously insufficient, which may affect its international reputation, including the freight market and insurance market.

Stranded on the road of absorbing gold are not only giant ships, but also uncertain oil prices. “The moment oil prices fall, anyone who can afford an extra week will go to South Africa and benefit from cheaper oil,” said Yezid Saig, a senior researcher at the Carnegie Middle East Center. Now, the best Egypt can do is to keep balance. “

In order to attract customers, the Suez Canal Authority announced last year that from December 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021, it would give half price discount to some large oil tankers.

“This grounding accident will not affect the global trade pattern in the short term. The market has a certain amount of production inventory and commercial inventory. It will not adjust the supply chain and industrial chain just because of one incident, but it may have an impact in the long term. If there are always problems, and every time there is a problem, there will be a long-term blockage, the users of the canal may need to find a way to rearrange their production The structure of the industry. ” Bai Ming, deputy director of the International Market Research Institute of the Ministry of Commerce, said frankly.

What’s more, an alternative to the Suez Canal has been put on the agenda. According to Russian media, the Arctic route provides the shortest sea route connecting Europe and Asia. It takes 5770 miles to take the Arctic route from Murmansk to Japan, and 12840 miles to take the Suez Canal.

However, Yu Guoqing believes that the current conventional shipping route will not be adjusted because of this accident, because it will be a systematic project. In the short run, there is no realistic possibility to completely replace the Suez Canal, but in the long run, there may be alternative considerations.

Beijing Business Daily reporter Tao Feng Tang Yitian


The Panama Canal is getting wider and wider, with less and less water

If there is any other canal in the world as crucial as the Suez Canal, it may be the Panama Canal connecting the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. However, unlike the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal is narrower and requires more complex lock control and higher water demand. Compared with the technical obstacles that can be solved by expansion, the water shortage crisis caused by climate change seems more unsolvable.

Compared with the Suez Canal, the narrow Panama Canal is more congested. In December last year, the average waiting time for ships on the Panama Canal increased from 5 to 6 days to about 10 days due to bad weather and sharp increase in transport demand.

Panama’s congestion is not uncommon. According to statistics, in 2020 alone, the Panama Canal will be blocked almost once a month. However, Panama’s traffic is only slowed down due to traffic jams, and it is not as unexpected as Suez’s.

The Panama Canal is not only blocked, but also “expensive”. Of all the sea toll stations in the world, the Panama Canal has the highest “toll” and probably does not have one. In May 2018, a Norwegian Cruise ship, novozhen bliss, which can carry 5000 passengers, passed through the Panama Canal. The toll and service charge together cost 891600 US dollars. All tolls for the Panama Canal must be paid at least 48 hours in advance and in cash.

Even if the conditions are so harsh, many shippers are willing to pay for it. This is due to the geographical advantages of the Panama Canal, which is located between South America and North America, the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, connecting more than 140 sea routes and more than 1700 ports in 160 countries. It is a truly golden waterway. It takes an average of 8-10 hours for a ship to cross the Panama Canal, compared with two weeks to make a detour around Cape Horn in South America.

But in the beginning, not so many people were willing to pay. Compared with the Suez canal can pass 370000 tons of empty ships and 250000 tons of oil tankers, the Panama canal can only pass 78000 tons of ships due to geographical conditions. In 1914, the Panama Canal was officially opened to navigation, and only ships with a width of no more than 33.5 meters were allowed to pass through the canal for 100 years.

With the development of the global economy, the freight volume from Asia to the eastern part of the United States and the east coast of South America is increasing year by year, and the volume of cargo ships is growing day by day, which makes the narrow Panama Canal even more inadequate. Therefore, expansion has been put on the agenda. In 2016, after nine years of expansion, a wider third passage was added to the Panama Canal, so that freighters with a capacity of 14000 containers can also pass through.

After the expansion, the transport capacity of the Panama Canal has indeed increased a lot, but there is a new crisis – water shortage. The amount of water is crucial to the Panama Canal. The Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea are on both sides of the Suez Canal, and ships can directly pass through them in parallel. There are different oceans on both sides of the Panama Canal, and the water density and water level are also different. In order to adjust the sea level difference between the two oceans, each ship needs to add lake water to enter the Atlantic Ocean through the lock. Once the rainfall decreases, the water level of Jiatong lake will also drop significantly, indirectly affecting the normal passage of ships.

The water shortage crisis continues. The report released by the Panama Canal Authority shows that the precipitation in the Panama Canal basin in 2019 is 20% lower than the historical average due to the impact of climate change.

Water shortage is only a symptom, and its root lies in climate change. The Panama Canal Authority once said frankly that water shortage caused by climate change is the biggest challenge facing the canal in the future. Last August, the Panama Canal Authority said it would invest $500 million to $600 million in 2021 to solve the problem of maintaining water levels.

In an interview with Beijing business daily, Liu Shiguo, deputy director of the global macroeconomic research office of the Institute of world economics and politics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that if there is a problem with either the Suez canal or the Panama Canal, it will be an obstruction to Global trade. Because of the high demand for speed and the large volume of transportation, the direct impact on trade is also very obvious.

Liu Shiguo went on to point out that just as the China Europe train is an alternative to the Suez Canal, in the long run, the world needs more logistics channels to share the risks in this regard, which is also a point where international cooperation needs to be strengthened.

Beijing Business Daily reporter Tao Feng Zhao Tianshu

The threat of blockade of the Strait of Malacca keeps on fighting for a century

If India wants to cut off the Strait of Malacca, “all they need to do is park a bunch of boats in the Strait.”. Last year, Forbes magazine of the United States published an article to satirize India’s desire to covet the Strait of Malacca. Now, it is a prophecy that such a threat has occurred on the Suez Canal. Like the Suez Canal, the Strait of Malacca is “narrow”. In the past hundred years, the Strait of Malacca has always been threatened by “blockade”.

In the past few years, the busy ships in the Malacca Strait have driven the economic growth of Southeast Asian countries, and also created the economic myth of Singapore. After a long time, Thailand, which also depends on the sea for food, can not sit still. According to the Bangkok Post, on the 15th of this month, Thailand’s transportation minister sasayan Qichao said that the Thai government will make a decision on the southern land bridge project by June at the latest.

According to official propaganda, the project will make it easier to transport goods from the Middle East to the Pacific region. “This future transportation and cargo exchange portal will reduce the cost of transportation in the Strait of Malacca.” Sasayan kisser said so. It is precisely such a statement that reveals Thailand’s desire to move in the Strait of Malacca for many years. After all, before the southern continental bridge, Thailand was actually aiming at another waterway, the Kela canal.

As early as the 17th century, Thailand had the idea of digging the karat canal, but after hundreds of years of thinking, Thailand still did not start construction. The reason for this is too complicated, said Xu Liping, director of the center for Southeast Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of social sciences. Because of the complicated geopolitical issues involved, the Kela canal is just an alternative. In addition, although the Strait of Malacca is very busy at present, it still has the capacity to handle maritime transport at least. With the growth of East-West trade in Asian countries, new channels may be dug in the future. However, these are not safety issues, but traffic capacity issues.

Thailand’s anxieties can be imagined. Public information shows that the Strait of Malacca is a long and narrow water area between the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra island, with a total length of about 1080 km, under the common jurisdiction of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. The Strait of Malacca is not only the “throat” connecting the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, but also an important air route connecting Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia. Statistics show that the Malacca Strait accounts for 1 / 4 of the world’s maritime trade, and 1 / 4 of the world’s oil tankers pass through the Malacca Strait, which is three times that of Suez Canal and five times that of Panama Canal.

This “sea lifeline” is important, but it is also fragile. For example, shallow water and narrow road are often criticized by giant oil tankers in the Malacca Strait. It is understood that the narrowest part of the Malacca Strait is only 37 km wide, and it is a place where giant oil tankers are often prone to collide and run aground. In 2017, umm salal, a super large container ship owned by the United Arab States, was stranded here.

Piracy is also one of the important factors that plagued the Malacca Strait in the past. In 2020, there will be more than 30 piracy incidents in the Singapore Strait, a new high in four years. The Singapore Strait is a part of Malacca Strait, which lies between the south of Singapore and the north of Indonesia’s Riau islands.

The frequent piracy is directly linked to the oil trade. In 2015, the shipping industry and insurance industry were disturbed by a risk assessment report in the Strait of Malacca. Therefore, many international insurance companies required to add “war risk insurance” and “lease loss insurance” to the ships passing through the Strait. At that time, the market was already worried that the sensitive insurance premium storm in the Malacca Strait might lead to the rise of oil prices. After all, there are many examples of soaring oil prices caused by high insurance premiums in history.

More importantly, the world tanker shipping gap is the key to the global energy security supply, so it has become the focus of governments. Bai Ming, deputy director of the International Market Research Institute of the Research Institute of the Ministry of Commerce, pointed out that the country’s long-term strategic layout is inseparable from these waterways, but it also needs a plan B. Taking the trade between China and Europe as an example, there are the Strait of Malacca and the Suez canal between China and Europe. The opening of China Europe train is not only of economic significance, but also of logistics security significance, that is, it gives more countries a choice. In addition, many countries are exploring the Arctic waterway. From the map, in fact, the Arctic waterway is not very far away, but the ice layer hinders the passage. With the climate warming, the passable area is also increasing. In addition, there are also plans to build two ocean railways in Brazil and South America for transportation.

Beijing Business Daily reporter Yang Yuehan

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