Often, people think being on a vessel handling ocean freight is boring and all routine; however, there are many waters out there where international shipping can be downright scary for the sailors transporting shipping containers of goods.
In honor of Halloween, here’s a list of the top 5 scariest international shipping waters…
#5 – Gulf of Guinea
Piracy has been rising off the west coast of Africa, specifically in the Gulf of Guinea.
In fact, 2 Americans were kidnapped from a U.S. flagged ship off the coast of Nigeria just last week according to an article from USA today.
“The ship’s captain and chief engineer were abducted early Wednesday morning, according to the British security firm AKE,” the article reports.
Piracy is one of the scariest things in today’s international shipping waters. To prove the point, 3 of the 5 places on this list are here because of pirates.
#4 – Arctic Shipping Routes
Northeast Passage, Northwest Passage, Northern Sea Route… I’m doing a little lumping with the emerging trans-Arctic shipping routes as I create this list, but I think lumping them together is fair here.
Looking for routes through the Arctic Ocean has cost the lives of many explorers through the centuries; but, with climate changes and Arctic ice melting, routes are being successfully forged through the Arctic Ocean now.
While the history of sailor deaths in the Arctic Ocean adds to the scary factor of international shipping routes through the Arctic, it’s other factors that make these waters rank on this list.
The potential money to be made off these hugely geographically shortening routes will cause two things, in my humble opinion: A rush to get ships sailing trans-Arctic and political battles over whose territory those Arctic routes are.
I have trouble imagining these factors won’t add to the dangers of ships working their way through the icy Arctic waters (often icebreaking their way through).
If something goes wrong while a cargo ship (or any ship) navigates the Arctic, help is not likely to be near. Figuring out rescue plans for a ship in trouble in the Arctic and especially putting in infrastructure to give a real chance at Arctic water rescues is no easy task.
I can’t imagine the survival rate would be long if something went wrong in these frozen waters and as the horror cliche goes, there would be no one there to hear you scream if it did.
#3 – Gulf of Aden
Because of the desperation left in the wake of Somalia’s civil war, the Gulf of Aden has become a hotspot for piracy. Really, all the waters around Somalia, including the Gulf of Aden, the southern Red Sea, off Yemen and Oman, the Arabian Sea, off Kenya and Tanzainia, off Seychelles and Madagascar, off Mozambique, in the Indian Ocean, and off the Indian west coast and Maldives west coast, have high levels of pirate activity.
Giving this spot in the scariest international shipping waters list specifically to the Gulf of Aden instead of the waters around Somalia in general is because the Gulf of Aden now is what pops into most minds when talking about Somali piracy.
The Gulf of Aden keeps popping up in the news with pirate related stories. Somali piracy gets an extra spotlight thanks to Captain Phillips, a movie starring Tom Hanks about a captain whose ship gets boarded.
Over the last couple years, increased security in the Gulf of Aden and waters around Somalia have helped decrease the pirate attacks happening there. But because the Gulf of Aden is now so known for piracy, its scary level is heightened even though there are waters where even more piracy is happening.
#2 – Suez Canal
The Suez Canal is an international shipping chokepoint. That already sounds scary without getting into why the Suez Canal makes the scariest international shipping waters list.
This narrow straight is crucial to the world economy as much of the oil from the Middle East to oil dependent countries like the United States is transported through the Suez Canal.
Where things get scary is with the stability of Egypt. Social and political unrest in the country threatens the security of the Suez Canal. It is a vulnerable place for cargo vessels to fall under attack and closure of the Suez Canal is completely possible, adding just a bit more scare factor.
What stops the Suez Canal from being even higher on this list is that it is not without security and if it were closed down, cargo ships (and a whole lot of oil tankers) would be rerouted rather than immobilized (though a scenario where a sudden shutdown with ships traversing canal are trapped is imaginable).
The Suez Canal has been shutdown before.
National Geographic reported in a Geography in the News article about international shipping chokepoints that “Egypt closed the canal from 1967 to 1975 in response to the Arab-Israeli War, also called the Six-Day War fought between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria. During that time, oil tankers sailed around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of the African continent to reach the West.”
There would be economic effects around the world if the Suez Canal were closed, but closure of the chokepoint would not put the world in a chokehold.
All the same, taking a ship through the Suez Canal when the canal has to be heavily guarded and is a strategic political and terrorist target gives plenty of reason for it to rank high on the scariest routes of international shipping list.
This video of a terrorist group launching grenades at a cargo ship moving through the Suez Canal exemplifies how scary this international shipping route can be.
#1 – Waters Around Indonesia & Malay Peninsula
It might be a surprise that these waters get the number one ranking on the scariest international shipping waters list, but Australia’s Herald Sun reports, “Shipping industry figures show that the waters around Indonesia and the Malay Peninsula is the world’s hotspot for pirates.”
There’s actually more piracy happening here than anywhere else as it grows at an alarming rate.
That Herald Sun article went on to say, “Indonesia has experienced a more than 50 per cent surge in pirate attacks in the first half of 2013. Of the 48 attacks reported, 43 involved pirates boarding vessels and assaulting the crew, the International Maritime Bureau announced.”
Keep Your International Shipping from Being Scary
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