‘Catastrophic’: Mega ship blocks Suez Canal

 

The 200,000-ton mega ship Ever Given has become stuck in the Suez Canal, sparking fears of a "catastrophic" meltdown in world trade and a spike in oil prices.

Images show the ship wedged in the canal, which is a critical route for international commerce and allows ships to avoid circumnavigating Africa.

The Ever Given cargo ship turned sideways in the Suez Canal, blocking all traffic at the busy waterway. Picture: Julianne Cona
The Ever Given cargo ship turned sideways in the Suez Canal, blocking all traffic at the busy waterway. Picture: Julianne Cona

Tug boats worked Wednesday to free the giant container ship after it veered off course in a sandstorm.

The incident has created huge traffic jams on one of the world's busiest trade routes.

Egypt's Suez Canal Authority said it was trying to refloat the Taiwan-run, Panama-flagged MV Ever Given, a 400m long and 59m wide vessel.

Satellite pictures released by Planet Labs Inc show the container ship wedged diagonally across the entire canal.

 

 

The container ship is wedged tightly in the Suez Canal, causing a huge traffic jam. Picture: Vesselfinder
The container ship is wedged tightly in the Suez Canal, causing a huge traffic jam. Picture: Vesselfinder

 

There are now at least 100 ships blocked from entering the narrow shipping channel, which divides continental Africa from the Sinai Peninsula in Northern Egypt.

The blockage of the Suez Canal - which provides passage for 10 per cent of all international maritime trade - helped send world oil prices surging 4.6 per cent.

The Sun reports millions of barrels of oil are already stuck in ships waiting to enter the canal.

A MarineTraffic map showed large clusters of vessels circling in both the Mediterranean to the north and the Red Sea to the south.

Expert Sal Mercogliano said the effect on world trade, including vaccine supply, could be "catastrophic".

"Because of Covid, you know how badly things have slowed down with moving goods, and now all of a sudden you add this and you're going to have a delay getting goods to markets," he told BBC radio's Today program.

"We're talking about vaccines, manufacturing goods, food, everything. It's potential catastrophic delays.

"Ten per cent of the world's trade goes through the Suez Canal and you average about 50 vessels a day and we're in the second day of not being able to move any vessels.

 

HOW IT HAPPENED

The Suez Canal Authority said the stranded ship was caught up in a gale-force sandstorm, a common occurrence in Egypt's Sinai desert at this time of year, which blotted out light and limited the captain's ability to see.

It was "mainly due to the lack of visibility due to the weather conditions when winds reached 40 knots, which affected the control" of the ship, the SCA said.

The Rotterdam-bound vessel "ran aground after a suspected gust of wind hit it", operator Evergreen Marine Corp said.

Storms with dense dust clouds carrying fine sand have swept across much of the Middle East since Tuesday.

 

 

WHAT'S BEING DONE

The ship is wedged tightly in the waterway and has been there since at least Tuesday afternoon.

"Rescue and tug units are continuing their efforts" to free the MV Ever Given, involving at least eight tug boats, Suez Canal Authority chairman Admiral Osama Rabie said on Wednesday morning.

Instagram user Julianne Cona posted a photo of the grounded ship from the Maersk Denver, which was forced to wait behind the Ever Given.

"Ship in front of us ran aground while going through the canal and is now stuck sideways," she wrote. "Looks like we might be here for a little bit."

The canal, which links the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, was opened to navigation in 1869, and was expanded in 2015 to accommodate larger ships.

The journey between ports in the Gulf and London, for example, is roughly halved by going through the Suez - compared with the alternate route via the southern tip of Africa.

 

The Ever Given is enormous. Picture: Andrea Matranga
The Ever Given is enormous. Picture: Andrea Matranga

 

The Suez Canal is critical for world trade. Picture: Vesselfinder
The Suez Canal is critical for world trade. Picture: Vesselfinder

 

WHAT WILL SHIPPING DO

A MarineTraffic map showed large clusters of vessels circling in both the Mediterranean to the north and the Red Sea to the south.

Shipping companies will have to decide whether or not to route the vessels around Africa, which adds an additional 12-14 days.

"It is unclear at this point how long ships will remain in the transit area in the lakes region or if they will continue their journey southwards," a source told AFP.

Dr Mercogliano, a former merchant mariner and associate professor of history at North Carolinas Campbell University, said the situation of a ship blocking the entire canal has never been faced before.

"There have been groundings on the Suez Canal before but never one of a ship this size or so dramatic - literally shutting the whole canal down by crossing the entire width of the canal," he said.

- with AFP and The Sun

 

Originally published as 'Catastrophic': Mega ship blocks canal



Six rushed to hospital after gas leak at Warwick workplace

Premium Content Six rushed to hospital after gas leak at Warwick workplace

The ammonia leak triggered a full emergency services operation at the Rosehill Rd...

FULL LIST: Warwick Magistrates Court appearances for today

Premium Content FULL LIST: Warwick Magistrates Court appearances for today

Here is a list of matters listed at Warwick Magistrates Court