Disruption Report #13; A Scarcity of Everything

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The Mississippi is Back Open for Business

Back-ups are not just a problem at the nation’s ocean ports. It’s also a challenge on the Mississippi River.

In case you missed it, the Mississippi River was closed to traffic last week. One of the bridges that spans the Mississippi was found to have a structural crack. The result was a back up of barges and other river-going cargo carriers. Here is how a Bloomberg article “Mississippi River Reopens, Freeing Over 1,000 Stuck Barges” describes it:

The crack in the bridge, found during a routine inspection, had stranded barges and cut off the biggest route for U.S. agricultural exports when the critical waterway is at its busiest. Covered barges full of grain and soy float from U.S. farm country to terminals in the Gulf of Mexico, while crude oil, refined products and imported steel also travel through sections of the waterway.

A World of Shortages

Maybe the sky is falling. Check out this headline: The World Economy Is Suddenly Running Low on Everything.” Here is how the Bloomberg article puts it:

Mattress producers to car manufacturers to aluminum foil makers are buying more material than they need to survive the breakneck speed at which demand for goods is recovering…The frenzy is pushing supply chains to the brink of seizing up. Shortages, transportation bottlenecks and price spikes are nearing the highest levels in recent memory… Copper, iron ore and steel. Corn, coffee, wheat and soybeans. Lumber, semiconductors, plastic and cardboard for packaging. The world is seemingly low on all of it.

It seems that companies, like people, are beginning to panic and, in an about-face to just-in-time manufacturing, are loading up on inventory. According to what I am reading, it doesn’t look like things are going to loosen up any time soon.

Out of Gas

If there wasn’t enough chaos on the world’s waterways, we saw highways have their turn in the barrel last week. As those who live on the east coast know only too well. Colonial Pipeline, the purveyor of 45% of the east coast’s fuel, was hit with a ransomware hack. Colonial had to pay the digital blackmailers $5 million in exchange for allowing fuel to, once again, flow through their pipelines. Backups at gas stations were the result, with waits of up to 1 1/2 hours.

Whether it’s a crack in a bridge or hack-able software, we sure need some infrastructure improvements, digital and physical. Don’t you think?).

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