Vessel Block in Suez Canal

A massive cargo ship ran aground among the world’s busiest trade route, the Suez Canal, on March 23, jeopardising the global freight transport leaving at least 150 other vessels stranded.

Despite the best effort of dredgers and several tugboats, the mega container ship partially refloated on Thursday, March 29, almost only a week after it stuck on the passage connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.

How Did the Ship Block the Suez Canal

The 220,000 tonnes, 400 metres long, and 59 metres wide massive container ship, Ever Given, owned by Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd, a Japanese company, was built in 2018. This Panama-flagged ship, run by a Taiwanese based company, Evergreen Marine, carries roughly 20,000 containers single-handedly.

On Tuesday, at 7:40 EGY (local time), Ever Given lost control of the steer, blocking the Suez Canal diagonally with its bow poking the eastern wall and stern on the western wall. Bernhard Schulte Ship Management (BSM), the technical managers of Ever Given, reported that all 25 members of the crew were safe and accounted for.

The Suez Canal is one of the most important waterways and the shortest route from Europe to Asia, accounting for about 12% of total global freight shipping, including 7% of oil. The 193-kilometres long canal traverses an average of 50 vessels per day, accounting for 30% of the world’s shipping container volume.

The Ever Given clogged across the Suez Canal, blocked at least 150 other freighters, already headed in the canal and others waiting to enter from Port Suez on the Red Sea and Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea, the Canal Service Provider Leth Agencies said. And the cargo ships that stood behind the Ever Given were carefully assisted back to port Suez, added the Leth Agencies.

Is Bad Weather the Reason?

Egyptian weather forecasting reported strong winds, speeding at 55.56 kilometres per hour and sandstorms struck the area on Tuesday.

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement has denied the initial reports claiming that Ever Given suffered any power blackout before hitting the ground.

Multiple sources and authorities have accounted for poor weather as the cause of the accident. According to a local Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry-Al-Youm, Lieutenant-General Osama Rabie, Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority(SCA), said it probably occurred due to “strong winds and a dust storm that obstructed the view”.

Captain Jamil Sayegh, an expert in maritime affairs with experience navigating the Suez Canal, said: “strong winds and human error” are among the suspects that could have turned the vessel off course.

The Escort of Ever Given

The salvage team finally managed to free one of the largest container ships, Ever Given, almost after a week and safely refloated from the Great Bitter Lake off the Suez Canal.

“Today, the Egyptians succeeded in ending the crisis of the grounded ship in the Suez Canal, despite massive technical complications which engulfed this operation.” said the Egyptian President in his tweet, applauding the efforts taken to refloat the ship.

The Impact on Shipping Industry

Within six days, at least 367 vessels backed up, carrying goods from oil, natural gas, grains to cattle, while dozens of others have embarked the long route around the Cape of Good Hope to reach their destination. Roughly a 5000 kilometres journey, costing the vessels some thousands of dollars on fuel and other costs, having a massive impact on global freight movement.

The Suez Canal incident only affects Evergreen Marine’s reputation for a short period, provided the global demand for marine shipping, said Cathy Chin, the Chairperson of Taiwan International Logistics and Supply Chain Association. Hopefully, a positive note for the shipping world.

This unprecedented event amidst a global pandemic has affected the global freight supply chain, leaving the on-demand shipping world in chaos, causing shortages and delay and growing costs on the consumer side.

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