The Suez Canal by the Numbers: Ship Attack Raises Risk

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One of the most important shipping lanes in the world may be in jeopardy. According to Bloomberg:

Egyptian authorities moved to bolster security along the Suez Canal after a foiled attack on a ship traversing the waterway that handles about 8 percent of world trade spotlighted new threats confronting officials after Mohamed Mursi’s ouster.The failed Aug. 31 attack on the Panama-registered Cosco (1919) Asia didn’t damage the ship or its cargo, Suez Canal Authority head Mohab Mamish said in a statement yesterday. The military dealt “decisively” with the attempt, he said, without giving details.

Egypt has no oil or other essential goods or services necessary to the health of the international economy. Its gross domestic product (GDP) is a modest $260 billion — less than Portugal’s and slightly higher than Ireland’s. The only strategic asset the nation has is the Suez Canal, and any interruption in its operations would be devastating, particularly to the transport of much of the world’s oil supply.

A realistic threat against the Suez Canal’s operation could cause oil to spike. A complicating factor is that the warships that might protect oil tankers could find it difficult to make it through the canal if it was under siege.

Beyond that, the amount of shipping tonnage that transits the Suez Canal each year is staggering. A few statistics from the Suez Canal Authority for the full year 2012:

17225 ships made full transits through the Suez Canal two directions , against 17799 ships in 2011, registering a decreased of 574 ships , equal to (3.2 %) . The daily average of trans its was 47.2 ships this year against 48.8 ships in 2011

And:

Transiting net tonnage registered a decrease of 0.4 million tons, from 928.9 million tons in 2011 to 928.5 million tons this year

The flags of the ships that transit the Suez Canal are not from those of the major nations:

112 different ship flags were represented in the Suez Canal traffic this year, against 111 ship flags in 2011 also. On the top of these flags were Panama, Liberia and Marshall (Is.)

The effects of a prolonged shuttered of the Canal on world GDP are incalculable.

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