Piracy, the pandemic’s odd unintended consequence

Jon Barrett Electronics Sourcing
Jon Barrett, Managing Editor, Electronics Sourcing

I follow a geopolitical commentator who regularly reminds me that naval firepower is a cornerstone of globalized manufacturing. A navy’s ability to police the seasdepends on its size, ship classes, reach, firepower, technology and more, with nations including the USA, UK and France heading the blue-water navy pack.

This maritime force matters because shipping is the obvious solution to sidestepping geographical barriers to trade such as mountains, lakes, deserts, borders etc. However, maritime transport comes with risks, including piracy. My image of a pirate is Jack Sparrow searching for gold. Today’s pirates are different and their treasure is oil and goods.

Having worked at sea, I find it astounding people can board a container vessel or tanker moving at speed in open water. Clearly with the right equipment, training and motivation they can. Hence the deterrence role of blue-water navies.

Why am I even mentioning this? Well, with the pandemic revealing the fragility of long globalized supply chains, nations have started investing in reshoring, nearshoring and friend shoring. So, if globalized trade has peaked, where is the financial incentive to increase funding for future naval deterrents?

Then I switched on the television to see reports of attacks on container ships in the Red Sea, sinking of pirate vessels and satellite images of ships rerouting around the tip of Africa, extending a 26-day journey by 10-days. Following this, companies started reporting delivery delays and price increases.

Next time you place an order, spare a thought for the sailors working hard to ensure your goods arrive on time.