The World Daily
Blockage at the Suez Canal

 The Ever Given container ship remains stuck in a single-lane, older section of the Suez canal. Photo:Reuters


By Patryk Krych | The World Daily | MARCH 26th 2021


The Suez Canal, a busy, important and very tight trade route between the Eastern and Western world found in Egypt, has been blocked by the presence of a giant container ship for more than three days now.

The Suez Canal – a canal dug out through Egypt for the purpose of easing the process of trade between the West and the East has always been an important and therefore busy shipping route. If not for this route, the majority of container ships would need to go around the entirety of the continent of Africa, losing days that can be saved via a trip through the canal.

The blockage of such a busy route can lead to severe setbacks in global trade, given that about 12% of global trade passes through the Suez Canal. When one ship is wedged, then all of the awaiting ships behind it will inevitably end up stuck as well, unable to move forwards or backwards. Since the incident, oil prices on international markets had begun to climb.

The 200,000-tonne wedged ship is called the Ever Given, and belongs to the Taiwanese Evergreen Marine shipping company. It’s about 400 metres in length and 59 metres wide, stuck in a sideways manner that prevents the other vessels behind it from moving forward.


More than 50 vessels travel through the 300-foot-wide, man-made waterway every day


Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), the company who manage the wedged container ship, have released a statement that their “immediate priorities are to safely re-float the vessel and for marine traffic in the Suez Canal to safely resume.”

BSM had also denied supposed reports that the vessel had already been partially refloated, with experts warning that such a process may take several more days. This means that the canal will not be able to operate as usual for this time, and will most certainly have numerous economic effects in the meantime.

At its narrowest point, the Suez Canal is only 300 metres wide – a point that has caused many to share in the opinion that the occurrence of a blockage should be of no surprise, being an accident waiting to happen. BSN added that as of this moment, nine tugboats are available for the operation of clearing the ship from the waterway, but it’s a slow-going and difficult process in such a tight space.


According to Evergreen Marine, the ship was “suspected of being hit by a sudden strong wind, causing the hull to deviate... and accidentally hit the bottom and run aground.”

Though such accidents as this one are rare, they can still have “huge ramifications for global trade” according to Dr Sal Mercogliano, a maritime historian based in the United States, North Carolina. Reuters had reported a 4% rise in crude oil prices on the international markets on Wednesday, due to fears that the blockage would halt/slow down shipments.

“This is the largest vessel ever to go aground in the Suez Canal,” said Dr Mercogliano. “If they are unable to pull her free... in a high tide, they are going to have to start removing cargo.”

The sooner the incident is cleared, the sooner world trade can continue as normal. The Suez Canal is often referred to as ‘the artery of the world,’ acting as the vein through which the lifeblood is delivered. It connects the Mediterranean with the Red Sea, providing the best and quickest trade route between Asia and the Middle East/Europe. Without it in operation, global trade prices of certain commodities may only continue to see a gradual rise.

Shipments of oil and natural gas are particularly busy through this route, through which an average of at least 50 vessels pass on a daily basis. Such a delay is further troublesome in the way that it may lead to the delays in consignment of fuels and various transported goods.

“Even the slightest delay in traffic can result in congestion and disturb the delivery of goods and commodities on both sides,” said the analysts at S&P Global Platts.

What’s more, the incident has occurred at what is arguably the busiest time of the year. During the Chinese New Year, manufacturing comes to a crawl in China, leading to a slowing down of the production and transportation of goods from the country. With the Chinese New Year having just ended, trade was only just beginning to pick up in the country again.

Given the COVID-19 situation and pandemic concerns, trade had already been somewhat slowed down in comparison to previous years. Businesses hoping to restock, expecting pandemic restrictions to ease soon, may now experience further delay.

There are reportedly around 10 million barrels of oil and petrol backed up behind the blockage. “If it doesn’t get cleared quickly it will cause a lot of delay and people will have to start looking at shipping goods via the Cape of Good Hope,” said international supply chain expert at Colliers International, Chris Evans. “It will cause a hiccup and bunching of ships at various ports in Europe. Anything that’s behind it will come rushing through. Discharging vessels is already slow because of Covid procedures, as is pick-up of containers.”

He added that “The knock-on effect, the delays, start to build very quickly. We will have to go back to that old-fashioned thing: patience.”


By Patryk Krych | © The World Daily 2021