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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

2 hours ago - World

In photos: Students evacuated as wildfire burns historic Cape Town buildings

Firefighters try, in vain, to extinguish a fire in the Jagger Library, at the University of Cape Town, after a forest fire came down the foothills of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, on Sunday. Photo: Rodger Bosch/AFP via Getty Images

A massive wildfire spread from the foothills of Table Mountain to the University of Cape Town Sunday, burning historic South African buildings and forcing the evacuation of 4,000 students, per Times Live.

The big picture: Visitors to the Table Mountain National Park and other nearby attractions were also evacuated and several roads including a major highway, were closed. South Africa's oldest working windmill and the university's Jagger Library, which houses SA antiquities, are among the buildings damaged.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

3 killed, 2 wounded overnight in Kenosha bar shooting

Three people died and two others were hospitalized with serious injuries after a gunman entered bar in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, the police department said in a statement on Sunday.

The latest: Officers arrested a "person of interest" Sunday afternoon in connection with the 12:42 a.m. shooting and there's "no threat to the community at this time," per a later police statement.

Updated 4 hours ago - Sports

Big European soccer teams announce breakaway league

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) after striking the ball during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg match between Liverpool F.C. and Real Madrid at Anfield in Liverpool, England, last Wednesday. Photo: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

12 of world soccer's biggest and richest clubs announced Sunday they've formed a breakaway European "Super League" — with clubs Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona Real Madrid, Juventus and A.C. Milan among those to sign up.

Why it matters: The prime ministers of the U.K. and Italy are among those to express concern at the move — which marks a massive overhaul of the sport's structure and finances, and it effectively ends the decades-old UEFA Champions League's run as the top tournament for European soccer.