[Editor's note: Fascinating image / KML visually demonstrating how global shipping has dropped off, matching the economic doldrums.]
Republished from Foreign Policy.
Want to get a sense of just how bad things are? Take a spin on Google Earth.
The above image, pulled today from Vesseltracker.com’s Google Earth file, shows container ships languishing off the Singapore coast. Welcome to the largest parking lot on Earth. International Economy explains:
The world’s busiest port for container traffic, Singapore saw its year-over-year volume drop by 19.6 percent in January 2009, followed by a 19.8 percent drop in February. As of mid-March 2009, 11.3 percent of the world’s shipping capacity, sat idle, a record.
It’s a rough time to be an Asian tiger, or to be in the shipping business. The IMF projects that Singapore’s economy will shrink significantly in 2009. Globally, bulk shipping rates have dropped more than 80 percent in the past year on weak demand, and orders for new shipping vessels are cratering. In Busan, South Korea, the fifth-largest port in the world, empty shipping containers are piling up faster than officials can manage.
“Things have really started to get bad — laborers spend their entire day waiting for a call from the docks that they have a job,” Kim Sang Cheul, a dockworker at Busan, told Bloomberg. “People spend all day staring at their phone as if staring at it can make it ring. You’re lucky if you get a call.”
Green shoots? Not so much.
(For another view of Singapore’s port, you can check out Vesseltracker’s Microsoft Virtual Earth mashup map.)