Had the internet existed when I was a child, it would have been a delight. Tik Tok and the other social media platforms would have had no attraction whatsoever. No, what would have been attractive would have been the opportunity to follow stories involving numbers, particularly stories involving very large numbers.
The report that the Suez Canal Authority is seeking $900 million from the owners of the MV Ever Given would have given a boy of ten or eleven years of age plentiful opportunities for calculations.
How much might the cargo carried be worth? If the Authority was not paid and was allowed to seize the containers in lieu of payment, how much would it have to make on each one to cover its costs? If the cargo were to be seized, how much compensation would the owners of the contents be owed?
A quick search revealed that the Ever Given carries 20,000 containers, about twice as many as most carriers classified as “very large.”
If $900 million were to be divided by 20,000 containers, then knock three noughts off of 900,000,000 and three noughts off of 20,000 and you have 900,000 divided by 20, which gives you an average container’s contents needing to be worth $45,000 to recoup the losses. It seems unlikely that selling someone else’s second-hand property from a 40 foot container would recoup an average of $45,ooo per unit – and who would want to attempt such an undertaking, even if it were legal, which it is probably not.
Memories of the Port of Dublin seizing a ship over unpaid harbour fees surfaced. The ship lay in the docks for months and years and I am not sure what happened to it in the end, or whether the Port ever recovered its fees. If the Suez Canal Authority offloaded the 20,000 containers and seized the Ever Given would it have a chance of raising $900,000,000? How much would a second-hand very large carrier with some accident damage be worth? Certainly a sum far short of $900,000,000, and what would happen about the transportation of those 20,000 containers? Shipping is not a charitable activity, the cost of their delivery would be considerable.
The boy of ten or eleven might have worked out that the Suez Canal Authority’s figure is no more than an opening bid. Working out that holding the ship under arrest indefinitely would not be profitable, the boy might have concluded that the figure for which it is released is likely to be considerably less than $900,000,000.