When a giant cargo ship got stuck in the Suez Canal earlier this week, it resulted in a ripple effect that saw the ‘Suez Canal Crisis’ trending on the internet this week, with some saying that the worsening situation might have a major global impact.
The Suez Canal crisis might be the reason your International package hasn’t arrived yet, so what exactly happened?
The beached vessel, the Ever Given, which is operated by the Evergreen Shipping Line, is one of the world’s largest container ships, about the length of the Empire State Building.
Although the Suez canal was originally engineered to handle much smaller vessels, its channels have been widened and deepened several times, most recently six years ago at a cost of more than $8 billion.
So What led to the vessel’s grounding, and what’s being done about it now?
Poor visibility and high winds, which made the Ever Given’s stacked containers act like sails, are believed to have pushed it off course and led to its grounding.
Salvagers have tried a number of remedies. They include pulling it with tugboats, dredging underneath the hull and using a front-end loader to excavate the eastern embankment, where the bow is stuck. But the vessel’s size and weight, 200,000 metric tons, had frustrated salvagers as of Thursday night.
Some marine salvage experts are now saying nature might succeed where tugs and dredgers have failed. A seasonal high tide on Sunday or Monday could add roughly 18 inches of depth to the canal, perhaps floating the ship.
What will happen if the ship isn’t freed soon?
Depending on how long the canal, which is believed to handle about 10 per cent of global maritime commercial traffic, is closed. TradeWinds, a maritime industry news publication, said that with more than 100 ships waiting to traverse the canal, it could take more than a week just for that backlog to clear.
A prolonged closure could be hugely expensive for the owners of ships waiting to transit the canal. Some shipowners already have decided to cut their losses and reroute vessels that had been bound for the canal around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope instead.
The owner of the Ever Given is already facing millions of dollars in insurance claims and the cost of emergency salvage services. Egypt, which received $5.61 billion in revenue from canal tolls in 2020, also has a vital interest in refloating the Ever Given and reopening the waterway.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has ordered preparations for lightening the cargo of the giant container ship grounded in the Suez Canal, the head of the canal’s authority told media on Sunday, 28th March.