Relaciones Internacionales – Comunicación Internacional

Global choke points (Velina Tchakarova)

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Velina Tchakarova
Long post on global choke points since Yemen’s Houthis have been targeting vessels in the southern Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait in attacks that the Iran-aligned group says aim to support the Palestinians as Israel and Hamas wage war.
Around 80% of world trade is conducted via sea routes. Global supply chains have become the blood vessels of the globalized networks of economy and trade. Several chokepoints are of immense importance within the global system with major geopolitical and geoeconomic implications for international affairs.

When the „mega-ship” Ever Given ran aground and blocked the Suez Canal in both directions, the event illustrated the real costs of disrupting interconnected supply chains. The canal remains one of the most important maritime chokepoints for global trade, located in Egypt and connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. The blockade of the Suez Canal highlighted real vulnerabilities for European trade. The state Suez Canal Authority estimated the lost revenue at around USD 16 million per day. As a result of the blockade, the delays had a major impact on the supply of crude oil as well as a negative impact on energy prices. Almost 400 ships were affected because they were stuck in the canal during the blockade. Even though some ships were diverted around the Cape of Good Hope to avoid the blockade, the diversion took at least seven to ten days longer, causing further immense costs. After Ever Given was freed, more logistical problems kept occurring in the ports due to the many ships arriving at the same time.
Why pay attention at the global choke points?
The Suez Canal is just one of several major global chokepoints for daily transit from tankers to container ships (like Evergreen) to military naval vessels. Up to 15% of all world trade passes through the canal annually, linking global trade between Asia and Europe. Other major canals and passages along the busy sea routes include the Turkish Strait connecting the Black and Mediterranean Seas, the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait connecting the Horn of Africa and the Middle East as a gateway to the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, the Strait of Hormuz as the most important chokepoint that offers no alternative for ships in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Malacca as the most important Asian chokepoint between the Persian Gulf and Asian destinations, and the Panama Canal connecting Asian countries with the West. While the primary chokepoints mentioned above do not have low-cost shipping alternatives, there are also secondary choke points that have alternative shipping routes, which include the Strait of Magellan, the Strait of Dover, the Sunda Strait, and the Taiwan Strait.
Global shipping routes are increasingly vulnerable to various threats and risks – from piracy to military conflicts to cyber and hybrid threats due to the rapid digitalisation of supply chains and port infrastructures. The boundaries between global shipping routes and geopolitics are increasingly blurred. The geopolitical impact of a prolonged blockade, sudden incident or military conflict can lead to a surge in food and energy prices, which in turn can have cascading effects on conflict-prone areas of the world, leading to social revolt and political chaos. Some of these choke points are quite narrow shipping lanes with high traffic volumes due to their strategic location and therefore face international security problems and cross-border terrorism threats.
The major geopolitical game of the 21st century is likely to be played out in the South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific, with other hotspots located in the Middle East, North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Black Sea, which carry a large share of the most significant choke points. Moreover, the map of global chokepoints for maritime transit of oil overlaps with the map of choke points for global food trade to a great extent, which is another indicator of geopolitical disruption in the future. #Velsig #geopolitics

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