December 02, 2003
Alright, I'm scared.
According to United Nations estimates, up to 80 per cent of the approximately 6bn metric tons of cargo traded each year is moved by ship. Of that, almost 75 per cent passes at some point through one of the five main choke points in the seafaring economy - the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal, the Straits of Gibraltar, the Straits of Hormuz and the Straits of Malacca.
But wait, there's more (unfortunately):
Data compiled by Aegis Defence Services, a UK security consultancy, provides worrying evidence of this. In March, for example, pirates boarded a chemical tanker, the Dewi Madrim, near Sabah in the south Pacific for several hours. Their intention was not to ransom the crew or offload its cargo, as south-east Asia's pirates usually do, but simply to learn how to steer it at varying speeds. And in the past few months, 10 tugboats have been reported missing, each of which could be used for close-in manoeuvring of a disabled tanker, hijacked just before entering a big port (at Singapore, say) and just before being set ablaze.
You want to see gas and oil prices go through the roof. Imagine New Orleans in flames after an attack. It would probably take at least a year if entire petroleum operations were destroyed. Energy and auto stocks would take an immediate hit. Chemical companies would be running around trying to assure themselves adequate oil supplies. Manufacturers who use petro-chemicals would alter their production probably layoff workers. At the minimum we'd drop into another recession.
Because I'm more concerned about national security I'm willing to excuse much of President Bush's domestic actions. I don't trust Democrats like Duck, M.D. who didn't see the wisdom of the Iraq War.