2021 Suez Canal obstruction

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2021 Suez Canal obstruction
File:Container Ship 'Ever Given' stuck in the Suez Canal, Egypt - March 24th, 2021 cropped.jpg
Satellite image of Ever Given blocking the canal on 24 March 2021
Time 07:40 EGY (05:40 UTC)
Date 23 March 2021 (2021-03-23)–present; 5 months 27 days
Location Suez Canal, Suez, Egypt
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.[1]
Type Ship grounding
Cause Under investigation
Non-fatal injuries 0[2]

On 23 March 2021, the Ever Given, a Golden-class container ship, ran aground in the Suez Canal in Egypt.[3] The 400-metre-long (1,300 ft) vessel had been buffeted by a sandstorm and strong winds of up to 40 knots (74 km/h; 46 mph), knocking it off course,[4] though authorities stated this was "not the main reasons" for the grounding, and that "there may have been technical or human errors". The ship ran aground on one of the canal's banks and became stuck, completely obstructing the canal and preventing any vessels from passing through.[5]

By 27 March, four days after the grounding, over 300 ships were queueing to pass through the canal while awaiting a resolution to the situation.[6][7] As of 29 March 2021, the vessel is still stuck in the canal.[8][9] The obstruction is well south of the section of the canal that has two channels, so there is no way for other ships to bypass Ever Given.[10]

Background

The Suez Canal, one of the world's most important trading routes, was opened in 1869.[11] By 2021, over a century and a half later, approximately fifty ships per day traveled through the canal, about 12% of total global trade at the time.[11][12] For much of its length, however, the canal is not wide enough to allow traffic to travel in both directions at once; convoys of ships must take turns transiting these segments of the waterway. An expansion project is currently underway, but significant portions of the canal remain single-lane.[13][14][15]

Ever Given was laid down on 25 December 2015, launched 9 May 2018, and completed 25 September 2018.[16] Shoei Kisen Kaisha,[17] a subsidiary of Japan's Imabari Shipbuilding, owns the ship. The operator is the Taiwan-based company Evergreen Marine and the vessel is managed by Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement.[18] The vessel is registered in Panama.[19] The ship's owners, Shoei Kisen Kaisha, have liability coverage for $3.1 billion.[20] Evergreen's Protection and Indemnity (third party) liabilities insurance coverage is provided by mutual UK P&I Club.[21] The ship is insured in the Japanese market.[22] Insurance industry sources say the ship's owners could be facing insurance claims from the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) for loss of revenue and other ships whose passage has been impeded.[22] Container ships of this size are typically insured for hull and machinery damage of between $100 and $140 million.[22]

Bill Kavanagh, a National Maritime College of Ireland lecturer and former captain, has described sailing through the Suez Canal as "a very complex and high risk operation". Wind gusts will cause the container areas of vessels to "act like a sail" and thus affect the course of the ship. The momentum of a heavy ship, such as Ever Given, is difficult to counteract if blown off course.[23]

The government of Egypt requires ships traversing the canal to be boarded by an Egyptian "Suez crew", including one or more official maritime pilots from Egypt's SCA who command the ship, taking over from the regular crew. There were two Egyptian SCA pilots on board at the time of the accident.[24][25]

Incident

File:EVER GIVEN (49643352087).jpg
Ever Given in March 2020

At the time of the incident, Ever Given was traveling from Tanjung Pelepas, Malaysia, to Rotterdam, Netherlands.[2][26] It was fifth in a northbound convoy, with fifteen vessels behind it when it ran aground[27] near the village of Manshiyet Rugola.[28]

On 23 March 2021, at 07:40 EGY (05:40 UTC), Ever Given was travelling through the Suez Canal, where it was then caught in a sandstorm. The strong winds, which reached 40 kn (74 km/h; 46 mph), resulted in the "loss of the ability to steer the ship," causing the hull to deviate.[3][2][29] The ship then ran aground at the 151 km (82 nmi) mark (measured from Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea; 10 km (5.4 nmi) from Suez Port on the Gulf of Suez), and turned sideways, unable to free itself, blocking the canal on both sides.[3] The crew of the Given, composed entirely of Indian nationals, was accounted for, and no injuries were reported.[30][31] At this point, the Suez Canal is a single waterway.

According to an analysis of data from ship tracking websites by Evert Lataire, head of maritime technology division at the University of Ghent, the bank effect, which may cause the stern of a ship to swing toward the near bank when operating in constricted waterway, may have contributed to the grounding, along with the lateral forces of westerly winds pushing sideways against the northbound ship. Since most of the focus of modern ship design is directed towards efficiency and stability at sea, the effects of hydrodynamics in shallow waters, especially in light of the rapidly growing size of ships in the past decade, remain somewhat obscure and in need of further study.[32][33]

Over 200 vessels at both ends of the canal were obstructed by Ever Given, including five other container ships of similar size.[34] These include 41 bulk carriers and 24 crude tankers.[35] The affected vessels represented roughly 16.9 million tonnes of deadweight.[34] Some docked at ports and anchorages in the area, while many remained in place. The ships in the area range from small cargo vessels to large ships, including the Russian Navy Altay-class oiler Kola, which had been involved in a minor collision with bulk carrier Ark Royal earlier that day.[36][37][38][39]

Response

Officials plan to move two vessels from behind Ever Given to make room for the refloating operation. Fuel and nine thousand tonnes of ballast water were removed from the ship to help lighten it as heavy machinery, including an excavator, worked to dig the bow out.[40][41] Eight tugboats are assisting in the attempt to pull it free.[42] Peter Berdowski, Chief Executive of Royal Boskalis Westminster, stated that the operation "can take days to weeks".[43]

On 25 March, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) suspended navigation through the Suez Canal until the Ever Given could be refloated.[44][45] The same day, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's advisor on seaports stated that he expected the canal to be cleared in "48–72 hours, maximum".[46] The following day, the Suez Canal Authority said that its dredging operations were about 87 percent complete.[47]

On 26 March, the SCA accepted an offer made by a United States Navy assessment team of dredging experts to assist in efforts to remove the ship.[48]

On 27 March, the SCA said that 14 tugboats were trying to take advantage of that day's high tide and that more would arrive the following day if the latest attempt failed. Yukito Higaki, president of owners Shoei Kisen, reported that the ship did not appear to be damaged, saying "The ship is not taking water. Once it refloats, it should be able to operate."[49] There is no timeline of when the canal might be reopened. However, by 5:00 PM GMT, according to Egypt Today, the ship had moved by 30 meters (100 feet) towards the north. Delays in shipping may persist after the Ever Given is freed from its current predicament, as vessels may face busy ports and additional delays before offloading. As of 27 March, more than 300 ships are delayed at both ends and in the middle of the canal, with many more still approaching or having altered their paths.[50]

Addressing a press conference, Osama Rabie, SCA chairman, said that weather conditions were "not the main reasons" for the ship's grounding, adding, "There may have been technical or human errors... All of these factors will become apparent in the investigation."[51]

On 28 March, efforts to dislodge the ship allowed for some movement of the ship's stern and its rudder at high tide, and SCA chairman Rabie said that water has been running under the ship again, and that "at any time the ship could slide and move from the spot it is in", additionally noting he hoped it would not be necessary to remove some of the 18,300 containers on board the ship, despite strong tides and winds complicating recovery efforts.[52] This came as the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, ordered preparations for lightening the ship's cargo.[53]

The "complete disconnect of ship size development from developments in the actual economy" (as noted in an OECD report from 2015), and the corresponding limitations of existing infrastructure to handle them – a process evident in the Suez, where expansion work on the northern end of the canal has been ongoing – has led to the incident being described as a "worst-case scenario that many saw coming". This has also highlighted the difficulties of salving larger ships, which require more time and more equipment. If the Ever Given requires intervention of floating cranes to remove some containers (assuming cranes of sufficient capacity can be made available within any realistic time-frame), the process would require larger equipment working for longer, and would be likely to prolong the blockage by weeks.[54]

Global economic impact

File:Suez Canal traffic jam seen from space.jpg
Traffic jam in the Gulf of Suez caused by the obstruction as seen by the Sentinel-1 satellite

Maritime and logistics experts have warned that this incident will likely result in shipping delays of everyday items for customers around the world.[55] Maritime historian Sal Mercogliano told the Associated Press: "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."[2][11] Lloyd's List estimates the value of the goods delayed each hour at US$400 million,[56][57] and that every day it takes to clear the obstruction will disrupt an additional US$9 billion worth of goods.[34][58]

Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research, attributed a rise in oil prices to "people buying in after recent declines in oil prices, with the Suez closing the trigger factor." James Williams, energy economist at WTRG Economics, said that in light of existing stocks "a few days of slowdown in [oil] delivery is not critical to the market."[59]

The event will only delay goods, which might only impact industries with existing shortages, such as with semiconductors, thereby influencing markets already at risk of collapsing. To mitigate shortages of goods in the long term, future shipments can be ordered earlier than normal until the difference has been made up.[59][60] However, a consultant at another firm noted that even a short-term disruption at the Suez Canal would have a domino effect for several months along the supply chain.[61] Some freight forwarders noted that demand for alternative means of transportation was expected to rise within the next few weeks on Europe to Asia routes, as a consequence of shippers seeking to avoid the disruption and uncertainty caused by the blockage of the canal.[62]

The default alternative route for maritime traffic between Asia and Europe is to go around Africa via the Cape of Good Hope, a trip which can add up to two weeks to journey time,[63] with this alternative having already been taken by some ships as of March 26.[64][65][66] Russia has used this incident to promote its Arctic shipping routes as a shorter alternative to carrying goods around Africa.[67][68]

Concern about piracy, due to the unprecedented concentration of valuable shipping in such a small area, has prompted shipping companies to make inquiries to the Bahrain-based United States Fifth Fleet about security.[69]

In popular culture

Various memes about the incident have been published, alongside numerous jokes.[70][71][72][73] Jokes and memes have been posted by users on TikTok depicting their personal interpretations of the incident.[70] Individual suggestions for fixing the incident in a joking manner were also spread on Twitter, alongside comments over the relevance of feeling that personal issues somehow corresponded to the ship being stuck.[74]

See also

References

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External links

de:Ever Given#Sueskanal2021