2007 - 2021

The Shipping Forecast

The image of the Ever Given, the giant cargo ship stuck in the Suez Canal has fueled a rash of memes and acts as a perfect symbol of a broken system; global capitalism stuck in a single point of failure.
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The giant cargo ship could take weeks to remove according to salvage experts, triggering a crisis for international shipping and a potential shortage of essential goods and fuel. It is not clear what caused the grounding. Initial reports suggested that Ever Given had experienced engine trouble, but a spokesman for the vessel’s managers, confirmed that an initial investigation has ruled out any suggestion of mechanical failure. Local officials said the ship ran aground amid poor visibility and high winds from a sandstorm in Egypt.

The 220,000-tonne, 400m-long container ship got stuck last Tuesday and over-optimistic rumours that it was re-floated were quashed by Lloyd’s List who issued a statement saying: “THE SUEZ Canal remains closed following the grounding of a fully laden Evergreen-operated 20,000 teu containership on Tuesday, blocking traffic on one of the world’s most important waterways. Despite reports that the 2018-built, Panama-flagged Ever Given had been partially refloated, the vessel’s technical managers BSM have confirmed that the vessel remains grounded.” Lloyd’s List Intelligence AIS tracking also confirms that Ever Given has not moved since it ran aground 151 km north in the Suez Canal on Tuesday, turning sideways and causing a backup of many hundreds of other ships.

The Ever Given mega-container ship is holding up an estimated $9.6bn (£7bn) of goods each day, and now experts say that only the moon can save global capitalism by floating it off in a high tide. The Suez has been described as “a river of electronics, clothing and every other gadget imaginable on Earth, all traveling silently in the dark interior of their metal containers.” On either side of the canal, impatient consumers wait to receive their daily doses, just as we browse for the next items to order. 

It’s interesting that it takes a single iconic image to cut through the torrent of information, disinformation and misinformation that flashes before us every minute. It’s one of these revelatory moments. It reveals the fragility of the systems that operate our ‘magical world’ where goods arrive from the other side of the planet and place and season and locality are disappeared. As we struggle out of lockdown and try to ‘recover’ (itself a problematic word to use) from the pandemic  – the relation between the local and the global is exposed like never before.

Some people are beginning to awaken to the grand-scale possibility of this moment as well as the global tragedy.
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Writing for the Enough Collective’s journal ‘LESS” Adrián Almazán and Luis González Reyes write:

 

 

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Comments (34)

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  1. Peter says:

    The absolute opposite end of the scale from The Fife Diet.

    1. Yeah.

      As Greenpeace points out, #relocalisation is a “solutions multiplier”.

      Shortening supply chains can help in future crises and reveal the true cost of what we are buying.

      https://twitter.com/Greenpeace/status/1375100461569675271?s=20

  2. James Mills says:

    What a shame it would be if the stream of Flags required to push the Tories new brand of ”made-in-China” Union Flag patriotism were stuck for months in the Suez Canal .
    Perhaps they could find an alternative cheap source in the EU – as long as Brexit rules didn’t cause another blockage at The Channel !

  3. Pub Bore says:

    Catastrophising again! The metaphorical ship will be refloated, life will go on, and the sensationalising press will move on in search of its next ‘disaster’.

    1. “Everything’s Fine!”

      1. Pub Bore says:

        Everything’s far from fine. We’re beset by messianism, which is part of the problem rather than of the solution, insofar as it merely reproduces ideologically the ‘scheme’ of our current material existence under capitalism. To help precipitate the deconstruction of this ‘scheme’, we need a more liberating praxis, an ‘anti-messianism’.

  4. L. Reid says:

    The article above does indeed highlight the state of our government at the moment and the grounding of the Evergiven will add to that chaos. As half the country is diametrically opposed to the the capitalistic system here, their street protests are the first steps at last in rearing up against this. Whether the home office will ultimately decide to crush these protests is another matter. The government is doing its successful best to eliminate all change for the better and it will be difficult I feel, to radically change the way everybody feels and acts upon their lives, but given that apparently there has been a rather large surge in joining the Conservative party, don’t hold your breathe. The blind leading the blind.

    1. James Mills says:

      ” a large surge joining the Conservative party ” – would that be opportunistic donors looking for PPE /vaccine / Test&Control contracts ?

      1. L. Reid says:

        Very probably or else looking for advice on the best tax haven!

  5. Murray says:

    Salvage they may be experts I don’t think so . A barge load of air compressors and the tugs in the right place as she’s beached . Her heads up and stern down to get her off and on a even keel ,blow air under her from mid ships to bows and get some tugs pulling a some pushing ( in the right place ) and pivot her off the sand bank . Once her head is moving pull her astern ,with the tugs on both port and starboard dining the same . Use her weight to your advantage and get her to slide off ,the air allows the sand to stop being a fiction material that holds her but a fluid to help her off . Liquefaction is the only way to change the sand from a brake to a fluid and air is the easy a best way the help the escape .

      1. Pub Bore says:

        There you go! As of this morning, it’s been partially refloated and turned 80% in the right direction. Panic over!

        1. I want arguing that the ship would never be moved, I was arguing that it gave us a snapshot of a globalised economy that is severely dysfunctional.

          1. Pub Bore says:

            Yes, an image for the total eco-social collapse that, according to prophets of doom since time immemorial, is imminent unless we repent and mend our evil ways… I get that.

            I also get that it’s a cultural trope that’s long since had the *rs* kicked out it by movements with an eschatological or utopian-revolutionary message.

            It’s time we changed the record.

          2. Are you a climate change denier?

          3. Pub Bore says:

            Not at all. I’m just dubious of the eschatological spin that’s put on it.

          4. Can you articulate where you think we are if you dont think we’re in crisis?

          5. Pub Bore says:

            We’re in the normal condition of social and environmental instability that drives history. Since the onset of capitalism/modernity, we’re tried to master that instability by imposing on society and nature régimes of order (knowledge) and discipline (morality) and thereby bend history to our will. The prophetic threat of imminent catastrophe is (and has always been) a means of cowing us into acquiescence in that mastery.

            That’s where I think we are.

          6. I think if you look at the state of extinction, biodiversity loss, runaway climate change and extractivism and think “this is all normal” you are deeply delusional.

          7. Pub Bore says:

            Quite possibly! It may well be delusional, from within our present ideology/relations of production, to think that it’s our attempts to master the normal instability of life through science and politics (the so-called ‘Enlightenment project’) that lie at the root of our malaise. But – who knows? – as that instability leads to the sublation of those relations and their ideological expressions and the emergence of a new paradigm, it might come to be less so.

          8. It sounds like very clever clever excuses for inertia.

            I mean saying “who knows?” when everyone knows and there is global scientific consensus that we face the most dire existential threat is just a morally questionable stance to hold.

          9. Pub Bore says:

            You can morally object to my historicism all you want; it changes nothing. The matter is beyond good and evil.

            Yes, Earth’s climate is changing. Yes, our collective activities are probably contributing to the direction of that change. And, yes, that change could well produce an environment in which we, as a species, won’t be fit to survive. Evolution can be a bugger! Life is tenuous.

            But what’s called for is neither inertia nor utopianism but immanent critique. We’re enmeshed in a system – the aforementioned ‘Enlightenment project’ – that’s total. Even our opposition movements are creatures of the system, part of its ideology; they simply reproduce in their own utopianism the system they oppose.

            Basically, mere moral change doesn’t cut it; deeper structural change is required. And this deep structural change can’t be engineered or managed ‘transcendently’, from some high moral or scientific ground outside the system. There is no ‘outside’; the system is total. Change can only emerge ‘immanently’, from within the existing structure itself.

            This emergence can be facilitated through immanent critique; a praxis whereby, instead of confronting it with an alternative system (which simply reproduces the ideology it opposes), the system is manipulated against itself. Thus, rather than envision and realise any alternative through some naïve self-defeating utopianism, the critical theorist engages capitalism and its ideologies in a kind of jujutsu, exploiting their inherent tendency to deconstruct under the weight of their own internal contradictions to overthrow them.

            Rather than attempt to master the normal instability of the system, the critical theorist seeks to liberate it. This is not to do nothing; it’s to cultivate real revolution rather than indulge in utopian dreams.

          10. Hi Pub Bore
            you write: “Yes, Earth’s climate is changing. Yes, our collective activities are probably contributing to the direction of that change. And, yes, that change could well produce an environment in which we, as a species, won’t be fit to survive. Evolution can be a bugger!”
            But it’s not natural evolution at all, is it? To frame it like that is quite deceptive. The earths climate isnt ‘changing naturally’ its being destroyed by the activities of a handful of companies. That’s not evolution. Nor are “our collective activities probably contributing” – they definitely are – there is no question and there has been no question for some time.

            Not only that but we know these companies have been funding propaganda to cover up their activities.

            You write bizarrely “what’s called for is neither inertia nor utopianism but immanent critique” – but the binary isn’t between inertia and “utopianism” (for which read survivability – such a low bar).

            This isn’t “the normal instability of the system” – this is a system that benefits a few destroying the planet.

          11. Pub Bore says:

            Well, yes, it is ‘natural’, insofar as we are part of nature and subject to the same natural processes. The fact that it’s our own behaviour that’s caused the environmental changes that leave us unfit to survive in that changed environment is neither here nor there. Our extinction as a species will still be an outcome of the natural process of evolution whatever the cause of that environmental change happens to be – human pollution or a giant meteor smacking into the planet or God smiting us. The dichotomy between ‘man-made’ and ‘natural’ holds only if you assume that ‘man’ transcends ‘nature’, which is no longer as popular a prejudice as it used to be.

            The binary to which I was appealing wasn’t between non-action (‘inertia’) and action, but between the transcendent critique of positivism (of which ‘utopianism’ is an instance) and immanent critique of critical theory. I was really just saying that your characterisation of my position as ‘inert’ was mistaken; my activism consists in the pursuit of immanent critique rather than the transcendent critique of Enlightenment positivism. More Adorno than Baez.

          12. It’s just all very sophisticated and clever bollocks isn’t it?

            I wonder if you have anyone you have to justify any of this to?

          13. Pub Bore says:

            It’s certainly ‘other’ than and challenging of the dominant narrative that shapes our current ‘normal’ social and political discourse, which dissonance is its justification. It may well be ‘bollocks’ according to the rules that govern the normality of that discourse – its ritual performance or praxis – but if it serves to unsettle and disrupt that praxis, then it will have done its job.

            The task, as MacDiarmid put it, “has never been to lay a tit’s egg, but to erupt like a volcano, emitting not only flame, but a lot of rubbish.”

    1. Denis Mollison says:

      I like your thinking, but maybe it’s pumping water that’s needed? –
      https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/transport/pump-water-into-sand-to-free-suez-canal-ship-edinburgh-university-professor-stephen-salter-3181166
      (Salter has a great track record in imaginative engineering thinking)

  6. Daniel Raphael says:

    Superb. Sent it along to as many as I could tag in one tweet, with the request it be retweeted.

  7. Dave Middleton says:

    Great piece. Very perceptive and well researched.

  8. SleepingDog says:

    Mocking Global-Capitalism’s red white and blue face as it gasps “I can’t trade!”? Anyway, I guess it helps to think of the geographical choke points of global capitalism as a network of arenas contested by the later highest-scoring sides in the World Championship of Evil Empires. This is beautifully conveyed in planet-mapping computer wargame Hearts of Iron 3.
    https://hoi3.paradoxwikis.com/Category:Map_images
    But these days you would have to add unfree labour hotspots, climatic disruption, tax havens, non-self-governing territories, puppet governments, environmental collapse, pollution heatmaps, hot war zones, cyber-vulnerabilities, endangered species, nuclear terrorism, arms trade routes, technology cascade-failure points, human rights deadzones, military bases specialising in information warfare, hierarchy hotspots…

    1. SleepingDog says:

      Talking of such maps, here is the Environmental Justice Atlas from the Institute of Science, Technology and the Environment (ICTA) of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) in Spain:
      https://ejatlas.org/
      There is even an entry for the Suez Canal.

  9. Alistair Taylor says:

    The amount of consumeristic junk (plastic/electronic/etc) that moves across the world is obscene.
    Battery operated plastic toys for kids and adults, made in Asia, shipped to Europe and Americas, Gawd…

    Good essay Mike.

  10. Some people mocked the idea that the tide would have an impact.

    Here explains why the moon was important: https://www.livescience.com/full-moon-helps-free-stuck-ship-suez-canal.html

  11. Jim Bennett says:

    Very good reading. Thank you.

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