It is one of the busiest waterways in the world, but since yesterday, the Suez Canal has been blocked by a huge container ship. Long queues of ships have been created on both sides. This morning there were reports that the Ever Given had been partly drawn smoothly, but that seems to be wrong.
The Panamanian container ship is still fixed, angled across the entire width of the Suez Canal, and the work to pull it off is continuing for the time being, says the Port Authority GAC.
The ship lies across the Suez Canal:
The Dutch Smit Salvage, a subsidiary of dredger and maritime service provider Boskalis, has been engaged to help with the salvage of the ship. A team from Smit is on their way to Egypt to investigate the situation.
With dozens of waiting
The dozens of ships waiting for the Suez Canal can be tracked on Marinetraffic.com. Every day of delay has consequences for shipowners.
Also shipping company HM from Rotterdam now has a ship, says general manager Rob van den Eijnden of the Dutch branch of the company in the CCEit Radio 1 Journal. The shipowner navigates the oceans with huge container sheep about 400 meters long. “Several ships are on their way to the canal. They can take another route around the Cape, but then you need to know in time before you take the exit to the Suez Canal.
The traffic jam for the Suez Canal:
The first Suez Canal was opened in 1869 and in 2015 a second channel was added that is also suitable for large container ships, such as HMs and the ship that is now stranded. “They sail in convoys, and in some places where the channel is wider, ships from both directions can pass each other.”
The Ever Given got into trouble in the southern part of the second channel. The bow is fixed in the sand and the looting is difficult.
More often blocked
Before opening the second channel, the first Suez Canal was blocked due to conflicts in the Middle East. During the Suez crisis, there was fierce fighting around the canal and Egypt deliberately sinked ships. From October 1956 to March 1957, shipping was not possible, which had major consequences for oil transport to Europe.
This retrospective shows how the Suez crisis held the world in its grip for months in 1956:
During the Six-Day War in 1967, the canal was blocked again, and then it remained closed for years, until 1975, which had significant consequences for trade between Asia and Europe.
Since then, shipowners only occasionally faced surprises like today. One of the most serious incidents occurred in 2004, when the oil tanker Tropic Brilliance blocked the channel for several days. And in 2017 it took several hours to pull the freighter OOCL Japan smoothly.
“I have not experienced this before,” says HMM-director Van den Eijnden. “It is true that the channel closed temporarily or that they increased the tolls tremendously, but we were able to respond to that in time. Then we also chose to sail through Cape of Good Hope. But I dont remember a ship being trapped in the canal.”
A short closure will not have such major consequences, but for shipowners the damage can be quickly caused by delay, says Van den Eijnden. “We have to wait now and the counter continues, a ship costs a lot of money every day and we are not insured for it.”
According to Rob Zuidwijk, Professor of Global Supply Chains and Ports at Erasmus University, the closed channel has an impact mainly on individual shipowners and port companies. Even if it took a few days, the global economy will not immediately collapse. “There is a lot of oil going through the canal, but the oil industry has enough supplies to be able to broadcast it for a while.”
For freight transport, Zuidwijk thinks it is different. “Its just that theres just a load youre waiting for. You only have to miss one part to stop making your product.”
This incident also shows how dependent the world is on transport routes such as those via the Suez Canal, says Zuidwijk, just like when a ship blocked the Rhine for days. “You get your nose pressed on the facts again. World trade depends on these types of bottlenecks, and they are vulnerable.”