- Navigation is suspended on the Suez Canal, one of the busiest trade routes in the world due to the grounding of a gigantic container ship across the route.
- Tugs and a dredge have been working to free the giant of the seas since Wednesday morning.
- In the meantime, several ships stranded in the canal have been placed in a waiting area. Unlocking this 22,000-ton boat could take several days, if not weeks.
Coming from China, the ship Ever Given, one of the largest container ships in the world, was on its way to the Netherlands on Wednesday when it was stopped dead in the middle of the Suez Canal in Egypt. Since Wednesday, the boat has caused a suspension of traffic on one of the busiest trade routes in the world, causing massive traffic jams. And the unlocking operation could take weeks. An extremely rare incident, which is already having consequences on world trade.
What happened ?
The Ever Given, a boat more than 400 meters long, which was going to Rotterdam from Asia, ran aground on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday across the Suez Canal, shortly after entering, no away from the city of Suez. The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said the ship had lost control due to high winds and a sandstorm, common in Egypt at this time of year.
According to Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), the Singapore-based company that provides technical management of the ship, the 25 crew members are safe and sound. No pollution or damage to the ship’s cargo was reported.
Consequence of this blockage: at least 150 ships loaded with oil, auto parts and consumer goods have accumulated on both sides of the canal, recalls the Guardian. Experts predict a flood of claims from insurance companies, due to the large number of detained goods.
How to unlock it?
The operation promises to be delicate. First, because the Ever Given is heavy, very heavy, with its 220,000 tonnes. This weight considerably complicates the unlocking operations. Some experts believe that the 20,000 containers it is carrying will have to be unloaded in order to unlock the ship.
“It’s like a huge stranded whale. It is a huge weight on the sand. We could combine weight reduction by removing containers, oil and water from the ship, in addition to tugs and sand dredging, ”said Peter Berdowski, CEO of specialist dredging company Boskalis, who sent out teams on site, on the Dutch television program “Nieuwsuur”.
Eight tugs are in the race against time to move the 400-meter-long ship, explains the Guardian. Dredgers are cleaning up the sand and mud around the ship, said Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, technical director of Ever Given. Diggers on the bank also dug the front part.
What does the Suez Canal represent in commerce?
Inaugurated in 1869, the canal has since undergone several phases of expansion and modernization in order to support changes in maritime trade. A link between Asia and Europe, it drastically reduces commercial distances: 6,000 km less between Singapore and Rotterdam for example, or one to two weeks of travel time saved, compared to bypassing the ‘Africa. In 2019, around 50 ships per day passed through this route, accounting for almost a third of global container ship traffic. Below, a comparison map of the traffic between March 16 and 23, date of the Ever Given grounding.
We’ve been receiving a lot of requests asking us to compare traffic today at the #SuezCanal with a normal day at the waterway.
So here you go, using our Playback feature, one day last week in contrast with the last 24 hours. pic.twitter.com/pnByGshl3u
– MarineTraffic (@MarineTraffic) March 24, 2021
Can there be consequences for world trade?
According to a map from the bladelfinder website, dozens of ships wait at both ends of the canal and in the waiting area in the middle of the canal. Several tugs dispatched by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) have been trying to free the giant from the seas since Wednesday morning.
The incident should slow down maritime transport for a few days, but the consequences in economic terms should remain limited if the situation does not drag on, according to experts.
“We have never seen anything like this before, but it is likely that the congestion (…) will take several days or weeks to subside, because it should have a ripple effect on other convoys, schedules and markets global, ”said Ranjith Raja, head of Middle Eastern oil and maritime research at financial data aggregator Refinitiv. The news caused oil prices to jump on Wednesday.