How Google Earth explains the financial crisis

Want to get a sense of just how bad things are? Take a spin on Google Earth. The latest issue of International Economy, edited by FP contributor David Smick, has a clever graphic showing the depth of the economic crisis, so I thought I’d share. The above image, pulled today from Vesseltracker.com’s Google Earth file, ...

585996_090507_singapore2.jpg
585996_090507_singapore2.jpg

Want to get a sense of just how bad things are? Take a spin on Google Earth.

The latest issue of International Economy, edited by FP contributor David Smick, has a clever graphic showing the depth of the economic crisis, so I thought I'd share.

Want to get a sense of just how bad things are? Take a spin on Google Earth.

The latest issue of International Economy, edited by FP contributor David Smick, has a clever graphic showing the depth of the economic crisis, so I thought I’d share.

The above image, pulled today from Vesseltracker.com’s Google Earth file, shows container ships languishing off the Singapore coast. Welcome to the  largest parking lot on Earth. International Economy explains:

The world’s busiest port for container traffic, Singapore saw its year-over-year volume drop by 19.6 percent in January 2009, followed by a 19.8 percent drop in February. As of mid-March 2009, 11.3 percent of the world’s shipping capacity, sat idle, a record.

It’s a rough time to be an Asian tiger, or to be in the shipping business. The IMF projects that Singapore’s economy will shrink significantly in 2009. Globally, bulk shipping rates have dropped more than 80 percent in the past year on weak demand, and orders for new shipping vessels are cratering. In Busan, South Korea, the fifth-largest port in the world, empty shipping containers are piling up faster than officials can manage.

“Things have really started to get bad — laborers spend their entire day waiting for a call from the docks that they have a job,” Kim Sang Cheul, a dockworker at Busan, told Bloomberg. “People spend all day staring at their phone as if staring at it can make it ring. You’re lucky if you get a call.”

Green shoots? Not so much.

(For another view of Singapore’s port, you can check out Vesseltracker’s Microsoft Virtual Earth mashup map.)

More from Foreign Policy

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands.

Xi-Biden Meeting May Help End China’s Destructive Isolation

Beijing has become dangerously locked off from the world.

The exterior of the Russian Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, is pictured on March 27, 2018.
The exterior of the Russian Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, is pictured on March 27, 2018.

Sweden’s Espionage Scandal Raises Hard Questions on Spy Recruitment

Intelligence agencies debate whether foreign-born citizens are more targeted.

President Joe Biden gestures with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the two leaders met in a hallway as Biden was going to a European Commission on the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Nusa Dua, on the Indonesian island of Bali, on November 15, 2022.
President Joe Biden gestures with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the two leaders met in a hallway as Biden was going to a European Commission on the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Nusa Dua, on the Indonesian island of Bali, on November 15, 2022.

The G-20 Proved It’s Our World Government

At a time of global conflict, world powers showed that cooperation can actually work.

An illustration for Puck magazine from 1905 shows the battle against bureaucracy.
An illustration for Puck magazine from 1905 shows the battle against bureaucracy.

Only an Absolute Bureaucracy Can Save Us

The West will only restore its stability when civil servants are again devoted to the public rather than themselves.