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  • Mark Easley

Bad News! Ship Gets Stuck In Suez Canal

Tel Aviv — The massive container ship that ran aground in Egypt's Suez Canal in late March was still blocking one of the world's busiest shipping routes on Friday, and officials have said it could take days — possibly even weeks — to move it out of the way.


The logjam of cargo ships created by the blockage of the shortest route between Europe and Asia, and the hulking ship wedged between the narrow canal walls, are visible from space. The MV Ever Given's owners say a gust of wind pushed it and its huge cargo of more than 20,000 shipping containers sideways in the canal on Tuesday, wedging it between the canal's sandy banks.


Giora Kaddar, a marine underwriter in the Israeli capital of Tel Aviv, told CBS News that navigating a ship so huge through the narrow Suez Canal in the first place is "like brain surgery." At 1,300 feet, the Ever Given is almost as long as the Empire State building or Chicago's Willis Tower are tall, and it's wedged across a canal just half that size.


The vessel is 164 feet wide, which Kaddar said leaves the people piloting it only about 82 feet of leeway to squeeze it through the passage — no wiggle room at all. Heavy equipment has worked day and night to free the Ever Given for days, but with no luck so far. Excavators have been scooping sand away at both ends — with an estimated 19,600- 26,000 cubic yards to shift — in hope that, at high tide, tugboats might be able to pull the vessel free. If that doesn't work, salvage crews may decide to drain its fuel tanks to make it lighter. But experts say that could take weeks to complete. Equipment needed for such drainage would need special construction that could take a great deal of time to prepare and transport.


The Ever Given blockage creates a sizeable dilemma for other ships. As long as it's in the way other vessels continue to pile up both at the northern entrance from the Mediterranean and in the Red Sea to the south. The blockage is holding up an estimated 10% of the world's overall trade that normally uses the canal as a shortcut between Asia and Europe. Some 30% of the world's container traffic uses the canal, and while less than 5% of the global petroleum product supply goes through it, that's enough to impact gas prices.



Other vessels must decide to either wait it out or opt for the very long way round Africa's southern tip, which can add a week to a voyage and carries additional security risks. The Financial Times reported on Friday that a number of shipping groups had contacted the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet over maritime security concerns for vessels that do chose to sail south around Africa, which would put them in waters off the continent's eastern coast that have a long history of piracy.

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