Blockage at the Suez

The Suez Canal

Built by more than 1.5 million workers, funded for and owned by the French on opening, and opposed by the British, the Suez Canal started operations in 1869, finally connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean after 10 years of excavation. In today’s globalized economy, the Suez Canal is estimated to handle around 10% of the world’s trade, allowing freighters, tankers, and other vessels to cross through its waters every year. Despite having around 50 ships crossing the canal on a daily basis, there have only been 3 commercial accidents in the past, one in 2004, involving the Tropic Brilliance, a 274-meter long oil tanker that ran aground, stopping operations for 3 days until it was recovered and refloated. The second happened in 2017, when the OOCL Japan, a 400-meter-long freighter ran aground, delaying the transport of goods for a few hours. Lastly, the Ever Given, operated by Evergreen, ran aground on March 23rd of this year, and is still stuck in the canal almost 5 days later.

The Suez Canal being blocked by the Ever Given. Both the bow and the stern are several meters stuck in the banks. (Photo: Copernicus Sentinel satellite data processed by Pierre Markuse)

The Accident

While the causes of this accident are not yet clear, initial reports cited the high wind speeds, which reached up to 74 km on that day, and low visibility, which was caused by a sandstorm. However, the Suez Canal Authority clarified that weather conditions were most likely not the main reason for the accident, claiming that thorough investigations would reveal the truth. It is also important to note that Ever Given is owned by the Japanese, operated by the Taiwanese company Evergreen, which hired Indian nationals. While both parties are directly related to the accident, it was confirmed that the party responsible for the accident and the damages caused would be the owner of the ship itself. The crew of 25 that operate the ship reported no injuries from the incident, but the effects on the global economy may be irreparable. Lloyd’s List, a news journal that specializes in shipping, estimates that about 9.6 billion dollars of goods are being held up each day, while Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, estimates that Egypt is losing out on 14 million dollars of profit on each day lost.

The Ever Given in Mississippihaven, Holland, on March 9, 2020. (Photo: Kees Torn)

Refloating The Ship

Recovery and refloating operations are underway but have been difficult due to the position of this 400-meter-long ship, as it is literally wedged across the canal, with both its stern and bow being stuck on each side of the canal. According to Peter Berdowski of Boskalis, the ship will most likely be free by early next week, with the combined efforts of tugboats, excavators, and high tides that would hopefully help lift the ship out of the mud.

Categories: Uncategorized, World News

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