Over six days in March 2021 a real-world drama unfolded as the MV Ever Given was stranded in a narrow section of the Suez Canal just 6km in from the southern entrance. The disruption to supply chains in Europe with goods coming from Asia was estimated at around $10 billion dollars for each day the canal remained closed. The incident demonstrates the reliance placed on the Suez Canal and indeed other waterways that link continents. The gigantic container ships that sail continuously around the globe bringing essential as well as non-essential goods to businesses and consumers are a vital link between producer, supplier and customers.
Ever Given is one of the longest container ships in service with a gross weight of 220,000 tonnes and a dead weight around 200,000 tonnes, powered by a low speed two-stroke diesel engine. The fully laden draft of the ship is under 15 metres. It has an all Indian crew establishment of twenty-five. In addition to the crew there were two Egyptian Pilots helping guide the ship through the canal from the Suez Canal Company when it ran aground on Tuesday 23rd March 2021 in heavy 40 knot winds and a sandstorm. You can listen to my story about six days that closed the canal and disrupted global supply chains in this edition.
Eight tugs tried to dislodge the ship on Thursday 25th March but without success. The next attempt tried removed 30,000 cubic metres of sand and mud from underneath the grounded ship. On Sunday 28th March with fourteen tugs and dredging taking place a small amount of water was said to be moving under the ship. Consideration was being given to removing some or all of the containers to lighten the load but this is no easy task and there is no handling equipment nearby to achieve that. On Monday 29th the ship was finally freed from its lodged position across the narrow stretch and it was moved to the Great Lake Area of the Suez Canal where at the time of writing it remains undergoing inspection. On Tuesday 30th March ships stuck in the canal began to get underway to their own destinations after a long delay. The repercussions from the disruptive event are likely to last weeks if not months. It is likely ships will be delayed entering the destination port with delays likely to cause congestion. There is also the knock on effect of delays for goods stacking up at Asian ports for future deliveries and a shortage of containers given they will be delayed on their return journeys. Freight costs may well increase adding to prices paid by customers.
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