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Suez Canal blocked as massive cargo ship runs aground in Egypt, causes pileup of 100 vessels

The hull of Ever Given became wedged lengthways across the canal Tuesday, causing a pileup of at least 100 vessels seeking to transit between the Red Sea and Mediterranean.

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Taipei City: A giant container ship ran aground in the Suez Canal, blocking off one of the world’s busiest maritime trade routes that’s vital for the movement of everything from oil to consumer goods.

The hull of Ever Given, one of the biggest container ships in operation, became wedged lengthways across the canal early Tuesday in Egypt, causing a pileup of at least 100 vessels seeking to transit between the Red Sea and Mediterranean, according to ship brokers and mapping data compiled by Bloomberg.

Ever Given “was grounded accidentally after deviating from its course due to suspected sudden strong wind,” Taiwan-based Evergreen Line, the time charterer of the vessel, said in an emailed response to questions.

Evergreen has urged the vessel’s owners to work with “relevant authorities including the canal management bureau to help the ship get out of trouble as soon as possible,” according to an emailed statement from the firm. Japan’s Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., among those listed as the ship’s owner, declined to comment.

“The salvage operation with tugs is under way, and hopefully the vessel will be freed soon, but it could last days” as checks are made on the damage to the ship, said Ralph Leszczynski, head of research at shipbroker Banchero Costa & Co.

Ever Given was en route from China to Rotterdam. The crew are safe and accounted for, and there have been no reports of injuries or pollution, according to the ship’s manager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement. Ship tracking data showed the vessel was still in the same position as of about 2 a.m. Wednesday in Cairo. A spokesperson for the Suez Canal Authority couldn’t be reached for comment outside usual office hours.

Pile up

The blockage has led to a big pileup in other ships in the area. About 42 vessels either in the northbound convoy or arriving to transit the canal northbound are now waiting for the grounded vessel to be re-floated, Leth Agencies, one of the top providers of Suez Canal crossing services, said in a notice to clients. About 64 vessels traveling southbound were also affected. Oil prices briefly rose on news of the disruption before pulling back.

At 400 meters in length, the vessel that was built in Japan about three years ago is longer than the Eiffel Tower laid on its side. Shipping companies have been turning to mega-sized vessels to help improve economies of scale, while some key routes — including the Suez Canal — being widened and deepened over the years to accommodate them.

“It could also take some time to move the vessel given that it would be loaded almost full,” said Park Moo-Hyun, an analyst at Hana Financial Investment Co. in Seoul. “This is going to delay a lot of the goods on one of the world’s busiest trade lanes.”

The 193-kilometer-long (120 miles) Suez Canal, which opened in 1869, is among the most trafficked waterways in the world, utilized by oil tankers shipping crude from the Middle East to Europe and North America. About 12% of global trade, almost 10% of seaborne oil trade and 8% of global LNG passes through the canal.

The canal has been the site of occasional groundings that have halted shipping. Tugboats managed to get the OOCL Japan unstuck a few hours after it ran aground in October 2017, while the containership Maersk Shams was briefly stuck a year earlier. In one of the most serious delays, the canal was closed for three days in 2004 after an oil tanker, Tropic Brilliance, got lodged. The ship was finally freed after 25,000 tons of oil was pumped out.

Any prolonged disruption would mean ships need to reroute, which would likely drive up freight costs, said Chun Hyungjin, research fellow at Korea Maritime Institute. Ships could bypass it by going around Africa via the Cape of Good Hope, but that would add about two extra weeks to the voyage from Asia to Europe, leading to significant extra costs and disrupting all schedules, said Banchero’s Leszczynski.

The shipping industry has had a tumultuous year since the Covid-19 pandemic began roiling global trade in 2020. As countries closed borders to try keep the virus under control, exports from China surged, leading to a dearth of containers and sending maritime rates soaring. The pandemic also exacerbated labor abuse in the industry, with thousands of seafarers stuck on vessels beyond the expiration of their contracts and past the requirements of globally accepted safety standards. – Bloomberg

Also read: Oil tankers are making bizarre trips around the world as diesel glut hits global market


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  1. Towards the tail of March in 2021 , world is focused on a major worrisome news from Suez Canal, where ‘ The Ever Given’, a Panama-flagged ship that carries cargo between Asia and Europe and owned by a Japanese shipping company, has run aground.
    According to news reports, The ‘Ever Given’, a Panama-flagged ship that carries cargo between Asia and Europe , ran aground in the morning of Tuesday, 23 March 2021 in the narrow, man-made canal dividing continental Africa from the Sinai Peninsula. Vigorous efforts to push the container vessel aside , are yet to bring about marked success as on Thursday, 25 March 2021. This is said to be imperiling shipping worldwide, besides affecting billions of dollars worth of cargo.
    In a sign of global turmoil the blockade has caused, the ship’s Japanese owner is reported to have offered a written apology on Thursday, 25 March 2021. A credible answer to the cause of ship getting aground, is not known as yet, though high and strong winds blowing at the appropriate time could be one probable cause. The owner company has reportedly expressed its determination to resolve the issue as early as possible while some are of opinion that it may take days or weeks even to clear the blockade. According to news reports on 28 March 2021, the traffic jam of vessels on waterway outside blocked Suez Canal has increased to over 300. It may be known that the Suez Canal provides a shortest route- link for oil, natural gas , grain and cargo. The closure or blockade could affect oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Mideast, which rely on the Canal route to avoid sailing through Africa.
    As said here, the ship involved in the blockade is owned by a Japanese shipping company. As such, it has primary huge worry. In this context, it may be apt to refer readers to this Vedic astrology writer’s one of related predictive alerts in article – “ Reading planetary impacts for Japan in coming year 2021” – shared widely with Japanese news media last year on and around 16 September 2020. The related predictive alert reads like this in the article:-
    “( 4 ). It seems that some questions relating to marine-industry can be in focus. Sea-food like fish may need attention. Questions of sharing of sea or ocean wealth can crop-up. Some substantial money are likely to be spent to cleanse sea-water from bad-smelling chemicals or even nuclear –related substance. ……………………………………. ……. One or more or all these worrisome concerns mentioned in this paragraph are likely to engage attention in Japan during a period of one and a half month from mid-April to May-end in 2021 ( 15 April to 31 May 2021 )”.
    The details brought out here would suggest that the predictive alert , sounded six months prior, has been precisely indicative.

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