This past week, there was a major disruption to international shipping. The cargo ship the Ever Given became stuck in the Suez Canal, resulting in a canal blockage. This strange incident halted all shipping and trade passing through the Suez Canal.
On Tuesday, March 23, the Ever Given was traveling through the Suez Canal when it became stuck in its attempt to cross through the man-made canal. It became wedged in a narrow portion of the canal and was unable to continue its journey as it was stuck in the sand.
During the six days that followed, crews worked tirelessly to free the ship. While conventional earthmoving equipment worked on the shore, tugboats and dredgers worked in the water. The night before the ship was set free, there was a spring tide in the canal which means that the tide was higher than normal. As a result, on Monday, March 29, the ship was set free. It took 14 tugboats to free the ship. When the ship had finally been set free, about 30,0000 cubic meters of sand were removed, enough to fill about 12 Olympic swimming pools.
How the ship became stuck in the canal remains a mystery as of writing. The initial reports from the owners of the ship said that high winds due to a sandstorm caused the ship to be stuck in the canal; however, the chairman of Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority said that the weather conditions were not the main reason for why the ship became stuck.
As a result of this six-day closure of the canal, which carries over 10 percent of world trade, over 400 ships had their journeys delayed. This delay is estimated to be costing shipping companies $10 billion per day — over $40 million per hour. Since there were over 400 ships that were delayed, the effects of the past week will be felt for the upcoming weeks, months and perhaps years.
Speaking about the upcoming effects, Ahmed Bashir, head of Global Execution Centers for the shipping company Maersk, noted that “It will take some time for the effects of this incident to be fully absorbed.” He continued, “Aside from the delays directly caused by the closure, there is an inevitable bunching of vessels that occurs as they call their next ports.” When the canal reopened, there were at least 360 ships that were waiting at the canal’s northern and southern entrances. There were at least another 300 ships that were en route to the canal.
While it is important that the Ever Given is now free, it will be a period of time before the canal is back to the normal volume of ships sailing through it and the shipping industry will stabilize after what happened when the Ever Given stalled.