South Dakota is accustomed to large-scale projects. The Oahe Dam near Pierre is composed of 92 million cubic yards of earth fill and creates the fourth largest reservoir in the United States. Crazy Horse memorial between Custer and Hill City, when finished, will be the second largest sculpture in the world. The monument has been under construction for 73 years.
But last week's news of a container ship being wedged in the Suez Canal brought us more startling size and scope.
First the size: The canal is more than 120 miles long and more than two football fields wide. It can handle ships up to 66 feet below the surface of the water and 68 above the surface. Ships can carry 240,000 tons each. In 2020, more than 18,000 ships passed through the canal, an average of more than 50 per day.
But it's the economic impact that really strikes us as massive. Around 10% of the entire world's sea traffic passes through the canal, including 7% of the world's oil. During the week-long traffic jam caused by the Ever Given container ship being wedged into both sides of the canal, roughly $9 billion of world trade per day was held up. At least 367 ships are held up waiting to get through. Dozens of others are already taking an alternative route, adding an additional 3,000 miles and hundreds of thousands of dollars to each ship's cost.
The ship itself is more than four football fields long.
The good news is that the Ever Given has been freed and is now on its way. Ships and cargo will soon start passing through the canal, and important commerce of all sorts can resume. The rest of us now have a greater appreciation for its importance in the world.
-- Jon M. Hunter