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  • Panama and Suez Canals blocked...

    Hypothetical, present-day scenario -

    ISIS or any other real or fictitious faction with long tentacles, somehow get their hands on 4-6 large cargo/container ships through various means...most likely by being disguised as crews or recruiting already sympathetic crews. No horrendous WMDs required...other than ships full of rocks, concrete or massive amounts of junk.

    Through tight communication secrecy, these vessels are brought to the Panama and Suez canals and scuttled at strategic points blocking both in and out traffic....perhaps halfway out (or in) a lock, thus preventing the lock from closing. They sink as mangled messes. It may be many months, if not a full year or two to remove the scuttled ships and their "cargo".

    How does this affect the world economy and could a war erupt over the economic slump? Which nations suffer the worst. How does the US react? Western EU? Does Russia benefit or no? Do OPEC nations panic? Does China see this as an opportunity for a rapid expansion (Spratly Islands), or perhaps Iran sees this as an advantage for better leverage without Western influence?

    Your thoughts on both canals being blocked for a minimum of 1.5 years before resuming normal operations?
    You'll live, only the best get killed.

    -General Charles de Gaulle

  • #2
    The only "strategic" point where a single ship could block the Panama canal is in the locks and it would take one in each set at one end at a minimum to jam things up.


    That might block the canal for a few weeks at most.

    The easiest salvage there would be to drain the lock, unload the ship, or simply cut it into chunks and remove it. Not a particularly hard salvage job.

    Sinking a couple to block the Suez Canal would accomplish little too. The quick way to remove them would be simply cut down the superstructure then use tons of explosives to pound the rest of the ship into the sand bottom. Again, if rushed, a few weeks at most.

    The art of ship salvage has come a long way since WW 2. Even then, the USN could clear a major port of dozens of wrecks often with hazards like explosives aboard, in a matter of weeks at most. Things have progressed substantially since then.

    This sort of thing would be an annoyance for a few weeks at most.

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    • #3
      I don't think blocking the Panama Canal would make that big of a difference. Until very recently, the really big ships couldn't use it anyway. The US ports have enough extra capacity to handle the smaller ships that normally transit it. The US railroads would get a boost in business. Many of the other ships would just transit Cape Horn.

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      • #4
        When the Egyptians sank ships in the Suez canal in 1956 they were cleared in about four months. I suspect we could do better today.
        Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
        Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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        • #5
          Japanese plans to close the PC in 1945 were centred on destroying the lock gates. These are not the sort of things carried as spares and building and fitting new ones would take a long time
          Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
          Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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          • #6
            Originally posted by MarkV View Post
            Japanese plans to close the PC in 1945 were centred on destroying the lock gates. These are not the sort of things carried as spares and building and fitting new ones would take a long time
            Actually, there is an "installed" spare set sitting there. They were made for just such an eventuality.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
              Actually, there is an "installed" spare set sitting there. They were made for just such an eventuality.
              How can a spare be installed?
              Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
              Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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              • #8
                Originally posted by MarkV View Post
                How can a spare be installed?
                They've installed a new set of locks as part of their plan to expand and widen the canal. The new set opened last June.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by MarkV View Post
                  How can a spare be installed?
                  Basically, they are just large doors. You take the hinge pins off, lift the door out with a crane and plop the new one in, replace the pins...

                  The other method would be, depending on the damage, simply repair in place. That is bring in a horde of welders and plate steel and simply repair the damage. All the lock gates are after all, is a simple steel door of very large size...

                  Today, they are no big deal. Here's the delivery of the new ones for the third set of locks...

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