Huge container ship stuck in the Suez Canal, blocking the world’s busiest shipping route

Huge container ship stuck in the Suez Canal, blocking the world's busiest shipping route

A skyscraper-sized container ship stuck in Egypt’s Suez Canal and blocking all traffic on the vital waterway has been partially refloated, an encouraging sign for the dozens of ships being backed up as they await their turn. pass.
The MV Ever Given, a Panamanian-flagged ship that transports goods between Asia and Europe, ran aground in the narrow man-made canal separating mainland Africa from the Sinai Peninsula on Tuesday. The footage showed the ship’s bow touching the east wall, while her stern appeared to be lodged against the west wall.

Tugs scrambled to try and clear the obstacle on Wednesday as ships hoping to enter the waterway began to line up in the Mediterranean and Red Sea. Officials said on Wednesday the ship had been “partially refloated” but as of Wednesday morning in North America, it was still blocking the route.

It is still unclear when the road, through which around 10% of world trade travels and which is particularly crucial for transporting oil, will reopen. An official warned it could take at least two days.

“The Suez Canal will spare no effort to ensure the restoration of navigation and serve the movement of world trade,” promised Lieutenant General Ossama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority.

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, who manages the Ever Given, said the 20 crew members were safe and there had been “no reports of injuries or pollution”.

Strong winds, a possible cause

It was not immediately clear what had caused the blockage of Ever Given Tuesday morning. GAC, a global transport and logistics company, said the ship suffered a power outage, without giving further details.

Bernhard Schulte, however, denied that the ship ever lost power.

Evergreen Marine Corp., a major Taiwan-based shipping company that operates the vessel, said in a statement the Ever Given was defeated by high winds as it entered the channel from the Red Sea, but that none of its containers had sunk.

An Egyptian official, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, also blamed a strong wind. Egyptian forecasters said high winds and a sandstorm hit the region on Tuesday, with wind gusts of up to 50 kilometers per hour.

However, it was not clear how the wind alone could have pushed a fully loaded vessel weighing some 200,000 tonnes. Typically, Egyptian pilots take control of ships passing through the canal, but it was not immediately clear whether this had happened with Ever Given.

An image posted to Instagram by a user on another freighter on hold appeared to show the Ever Given stuck across the channel, as seen in satellite imagery and data. A backhoe seemed to be digging into the sandbank under its bow in an attempt to free it.

The ship ran aground about six kilometers north of the southern mouth of the canal near the town of Suez, an area of ​​the single-lane canal.

This could have a major ripple effect on global shipping between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, warned Salvatore R. Mercogliano, a former merchant seaman and associate professor of history at Campbell University in North Carolina.

“Every day an average of 50 ships pass through this canal, so the closure of the canal means that no ships are transiting north and south,” Mercogliano told the AP. “Every day the canal is closed… container ships and tankers do not deliver food, fuel and manufactured goods to Europe and goods are not exported from Europe to the Far East. ”

The ship seems to have lost power, direction

Already, around 30 ships were waiting at the Great Egyptian Bitter Lake halfway along the canal, while around 40 ships idling in the Mediterranean near Port Said and 30 others in Suez in the Red Sea, according to the service provider. Leth Agencies channel.

Idling ships in the Red Sea were feared targets after a series of attacks on Middle East shipping amid tensions between Iran and the United States.

“All ships should consider adopting a posture of heightened vigilance if they are forced to remain static in the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aden,” warned the private maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global.

The shutdown could also affect oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East, as around one million barrels of oil pass through the canal every day.

The price of international benchmark Brent crude jumped nearly 2.9 percent to $ 62.52 a barrel on Wednesday. The North American oil benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, gained around $ 1.50 to trade just under $ 60 a barrel.

The Ever Given, built in 2018 with a length of almost 400 meters and a width of 59 meters, is one of the largest cargo ships in the world. It can carry some 20,000 containers at a time. It was previously in ports in China before heading to Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

This Reuters satellite image shows Ever Green, circled near the top of the screen, and the growing collection of ships piling up in the Red Sea, waiting for the ship to lift off so they can cross the Mediterranean. (Reuters)

The grounding on Tuesday is only the latest to hit sailors amid the pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of people have been stranded aboard ships due to COVID-19 restrictions. Meanwhile, demands for shipping have increased, adding to the pressure on tired sailors, Mercogliano said.

“It’s because of the hectic pace of global shipments right now and shipments are on a very tight schedule,” he said. “Add to that the sailors were unable to get on and off ships due to COVID restrictions. ”


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