Image: Al Jazeera
Eight tugboats are currently hard at work attempting to free a 220,000-ton “megaship” – one of the largest shipping containers globally – after it ran aground in the Suez Canal in Egypt on Tuesday.
The 400m-long ship, dubbed the Ever Given, has blocked the route at the southern end of the canal due to high winds and a dust storm that resulted in an inability to steer. The blockage, considered an extraordinary and rare event, is causing disruptions to the global shipping system and to a route vital for the transportation of oil.
Egypt’s Suez Canal sees approximately 50 ships passing through per day, in which delays caused by the blockage has resulted in an increasing number of vessels gathering by the Canal entrance. Considered one of the world’s busiest trade routes –an estimated 12% of global trade passes through the Suez Canal – the Canal provides the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe. With the re-floating process expected to take several days, continued delays to trade can be expected.
“Every day, 50 vessels on average go through that Canal, so the closing of the Canal means no vessels are transiting north and south,” said Salvatore R. Mercogliano, a former merchant mariner, in an article by AP news. “Every day the canal is closed, container ships and tankers are not delivering food, fuel and manufactured goods to Europe and goods are not being exported from Europe to the Far East.”
“Immediate priorities are to safely re-float the vessel and for marine traffic in the Suez Canal to safely resume,” said Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, the company that manages the Ever Given, in a statement to BBC News.
Currently, there are 30 ships gathered at Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake midway on the Canal, 40 in the Mediterranean Sea near Port Said, and 30 at Suez in the Red Sea. In addition to trade implications, the stranded ships have brought about security concerns.
“All vessels should consider adopting a heightened posture of alertness if forced to remain static within the Red Sea of Gulf of Aden,” said Dryad Global, a private marine intelligence firm, in an article by AP News.