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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

International shipping and supply chains are in rough shape, even without a container ship lodged in the Suez Canal.

Why it matters: The pandemic threw a wrench into the gears of a global network that was already struggling with oversized ships and unbalanced product flows. Given how long it takes for the system to recover from any kind of shock, the echoes of the Ever Given disruption are likely to reverberate for months.

The pandemic caused demand for services to plunge while demand for goods — much of which are imported by ship — spiked.

  • The sheer quantity of goods moving east across the Pacific already dwarfed exports in the opposite direction, and the pandemic exacerbated that trend.

How it works: Enormous container ships run on schedules that are worked out sometimes years in advance. The industry flourishes in times of predictability, and tends to come unstuck during moments of unpredictable demand.

  • Bottlenecks have built up, especially in Southern California, with ships waiting weeks to unload their cargo. Once they're unloaded, they rush out of port quickly to allow a new ship in — so quickly that they often don't have time to reload, leaving potential U.S. exports stranded on domestic shores.
  • Because the ships are so large, their maximum speed has been reduced to the point at which they cannot make up for lost time.

The bottom line: A system of small and nimble container ships could have recovered much more easily from the Suez delays. That's not the system we have.

  • Expect U.S. retailers to continue to complain about shipping delays on earnings calls for the foreseeable future.

Go deeper

7 mins ago - World

Biden to push vaccine-sharing at UN, but boosters at home

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

President Biden will convene world leaders on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to push them to do more to end the pandemic — though he's also facing criticism for prioritizing boosters at home.

Why it matters: There is still no functional plan in place to vaccinate the world, and past summits of this sort have flopped. The White House hopes that this virtual gathering will produce ambitious promises, accountability measures to track progress, and ultimately help achieve a 70% global vaccination rate this time next year.

GOP operatives accused of funneling Russian cash to Trump

Jesse Benton, spokesman for the Ron Paul campaign, speaking to reporters in the spin room after the CNN Debate on January 1, 2012. Photo: Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images

A former senior aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul was indicted this month for allegedly funneling $25,000 from a wealthy, unnamed Russian to former President Trump's reelection efforts.

The big picture: The Justice Department alleges that Jesse Benton, 43, the husband of Paul's niece and a veteran Republican staffer, orchestrated a scheme to conceal the illegal foreign donation with another GOP operative, Doug Wead.

Biden to raise refugee admissions cap to 125,000

Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles International Airport after being evacuated from Kabul. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Biden administration will raise the refugee admissions cap to 125,000 for the next fiscal year beginning in October, the State Department confirmed in a statement Monday.

Why it matters: The move comes as the U.S. contends with resettling tens of thousands of Afghan refugees stateside, and as the world faces "unprecedented global displacement and humanitarian needs," the department wrote.