The recent Suez canal blockage is not similar to what you might have known previously of stuck transits. The rough representation of the ‘stuck’ situation goes like this: on March 23, 2021, a big ship, almost a quarter a mile in length, got stuck along the 200-mile canal, blocking several other cargo ships and halting trade in one of the world’s most important maritime-trading and shipping routes.
It is no less than a predicament when a 1,312 ft container ship, weighing 220,000 tons, gets stuck along a 120-mile canal one fine morning. Thereby blocking, not only the Suez canal but also hundreds of vessels by the next morning and disrupting maritime trade activities. You can decipher the difficulty of the situation only by doing the math.
What Really Happened At The Suez Canal?
When the unfortunate incident took place on a Tuesday morning, the big ship was taking a route, starting from China to the port city of Rotterdam and passing towards the northside to the Mediterranean through the Suez canal. The blocked ship, about the length of four football grounds, lodged to its sides across the length of the Suez canal and got stuck diagonally for even now to be there.
For now, what is known, the reason behind the big ship getting stuck diagonally along the world’s busiest maritime shipping routes is, nature! Besides other combinations of factors that caused the incidents, nature- a severe sandstorm- has been held as the primary convict. The blocked ship was driving aground, under low engine power, when the situation got aggravated by winds blowing at high momentum, hitting the walls of the ship in great vigor.
Natural phenomenon and inattentive errors have been held as the primary causes until further investigation. Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), the company authorized to manage the big ship, has repudiated claims on the ship being refloated and indicated mostly towards human error.
The Suez Canal Crisis
Apart from the Panama Canal, connecting the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, the Suez Canal, connecting the Red sea to the Meditteranean, is regarded as one of the busiest maritime trading routes in the world. Accountable for managing over 12 percent of the world’s trading and shipping activities, the Suez canal not only links Asia and Europe by the shortest distance but also 4,300 miles of travel time.
Since March 23, the operational activities that are regularly carried out along the Suez canal, have been recently blocked by a big ship, operated by the Taiwanese shipping chain named Evergreen. As long as a skyscraper, the EverGreen container ship is a vessel operated by the Evergreen shipping company and registered in the country of Panama.
The Suez canal crisis is no less than disruptive to seaborne trade that helps in generating profits for most countries. Several analysts have shed light on the elevating risk of disturbance in the oil trade and a greater degree of vulnerability in energy supply channels. Apart from regional turbulence, the blocked ship might lead to shipping charges reaching sky-high levels, power commodities to ship-rocket, and global inflation increasing abruptly.
The cost to be paid for the Suez canal blockage is a decline in trade as one million casks of oil and about 8% of LNG (liquefied natural gas) requires the canal’s pathway for import and export. The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) showed significant tribulations regarding the blocked ship, stating that the blockage has been taking a hit amounting to over $15 million, for each passing day.
The pandemic had already lowered trade rates in the Suez canal and now Evergreen shipping had added to Egypt’s lower rate of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which was over 2% before the incidents struck the canal. Now that the important maritime route is blocked by the massive ship, the Cape of Good Hope is now an alternate option although the time taken is 9 days more than the time is taken when passing through the Suez canal, which means 7000 km more to be covered.
Allianz, a German insurer, estimated a downfall of global trade by $10 billion and a reduction in yearly trade development by 0.2 percent to 0.4 percent. The blocking of the Suez canal has caused several companies to rent vessels to and from the Middle East and Asia, the cost of which amounts to $2.2 million. Between 5 percent to 10 percent of all maritime oil is traded through the Suez canal which is now facing a loss of almost $5 million worth of oil barrels.
The Suez canal crisis arising from the blocked ship has not only affected the global maritime industries but has also impacted the Egyptian economy to a great extent. Efforts from various sources have been implemented to move the big ship and resume significant trade between Asia and affluent European customers.
Unblocking The Suez Canal
A plethora of solutions have been devised to refloat the big ship and the efforts have been somewhat fruitful. Dredgers and tugboats were placed to dislodge the Evergreen shipping although the time taken to completely revamp trade rates in the Suez canal might take another few weeks.
Compared to the situation that occurred on March 23rd, the congestion at the Suez canal has now been improved. Owing to high winds that afloat the big ship and accompanied by sandstorms that further reduced clarity, the blocked ship was rigidly stuck to the ground. A specialist team from Dutch, SMIT, directed a small ship or flotilla with thirteen tugs to dislodge the Evergreen shipping vessel.
30,000 cubic meters of sand was dug from beneath the big ship in order to refloat it back in its usual direction. From the ship’s diagonal position on the canal way, it has been moved back in a vertical position as it should have been. In order to move the massive container ship, around 18,000 cargo containers had to be detached to make it lighter. The big ship was able to swing back again as high tides helped the dodgers and tugs to move the ship’s rear first and then hours later, the bow as well. The Evergreen shipping vessel is now being transported to the Great Bitter Lake for it to undergo certain security inspections for measuring its capacity after the Suez canal crisis struck.
The recent Suez canal blockage has undoubtedly led Egypt’s GDP to see a new low as compared to its hefty revenues generated from trade activities although the ‘Suez canal crisis’ has taught valuable lessons to maritime industries. The first portraying the under-preparedness of maritime industries in handling crises of these sorts. The lack of alternatives and swift response has not only caused trade disruption but the Egyptian economy to face a downfall. Evergreen shipping must consider managing traffic through an appropriate assessment system and probability analysis. The previously blocked ship has been removed effectively although the repercussions are still felt in the maritime field.