Supply Risk and the Aleutian Ship Graveyard

Last week, I sped through the latest Economist and found this little fascinating story on the history of three centuries of shipwrecks on the Aleutian islands, which are directly South of Russia and Alaska. According to the story, the "archipelago is a hazardous traffic median in the great circle route, the shortest path between ports on either side of the North Pacific". In other words, it's the quickest path between Shanghai and Seattle (and nearby ports). But despite the speed advantage of the route, it is subject to significant storms (last July, the Cougar Ace, a car carrier transportating 4,700 Mazdas, rolled on its side in the region).

Despite the risks of the route, The Economist notes that "traffic is likely to increase along with the growth of international trade, but there are few safeguards in place." And the closest rescue tugboats are stationed "too far away to be of much use". So as traffic increases, most likely accidents (and losses) will climb as well, if not immediately, then over time. It looks like container transport around the Aleutians might be one type of global sourcing supply risk that organizations will never be able to entirely control.

Jason Busch

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