The Suez Canal blockage explored in numbers

2 weeks ago
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Tug boats working on the Ever Given on Saturday night

AFP

Suez Canal officials are continuing efforts to dislodge a stranded mega-container ship for the sixth day in a row.

While the situation has spurred many jokes on social media, it is the source of much worry and frustration for the global shipping industry.

Countless businesses with goods on the ship or other vessels stuck in the tailback are on tenterhooks.

We take a look at the key numbers involved in the operation.

The numbers are big

The Ever Given is 400m-long (1,312ft) and weighs 200,000 tonnes, with a maximum capacity of 20,000 containers. It is currently carrying 18,300 containers.

Graphic of the Ever Given

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The ship is operated by Taiwanese transport company Evergreen Marine and is one of the world’s largest container vessels.

It has been stranded since Tuesday, after running aground and becoming lodged sideways across the waterway. At first a gust of wind was thought to be to blame .

The wind speed at the time was recorded at 40 knots, but the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) told reporters that this is not the only reason for the ship becoming stranded.

An investigation would be needed to determine whether technical or human errors occurred, the authority added.

As of Sunday, there were 369 ships stuck in a tailback waiting to pass through the 193km (120-mile) canal on either side of the blockage.

Meanwhile, there have been more than 145,200 social interactions on Twitter using the #SuezBLOCKED hashtag and at least 133,000 shares, according to real-time analysis by brand monitoring platform BrandMentions.

How are efforts to free the ship going?

On Saturday, 14 tugboats pulled and pushed the Ever Given at high tide to try to dislodge it and were able to move the ship “30 degrees from left and right”.

Egypt's Suez Canal Authority chief Osama Rabie

AFP

The SCA said in a statement that dredgers had so far shifted 27,000 cubic metres of sand, to a depth of 18m (59ft).

“The rudder was not moving and it is now moving, the propeller is working now, there was no water underneath the bow, and now there is water under it, and yesterday there was a 4m (13ft) deviation in the bow and the stern,” SCA’s chairman General Osama Rabie told Egyptian state TV.

However, in a possible complication, SCA sources quoted by Reuters news agency said that a mass of rock had been discovered under the bow of the ship.

Sunday’s attempt to free the Ever Given was postponed – according to the SCA, the next favourable times for refloating the ship will be during high tide, at 11:42 local time (09:42 GMT) on Monday and early Tuesday morning at 00:08.

How much is the blockage costing?

About 12% of global trade, around one million barrels of oil and roughly 8% of liquefied natural gas pass through the canal each day.

General Rabie told reporters on Saturday that the Canal’s revenues were taking a $ 14-$ 15m (£10.2m-£10.9m) hit for each day that the blockage continues.

This is despite the fact that the canal opened an older channel to try to get more ships through.

Prior to the pandemic, trade passing through the Suez Canal contributed to 2% of Egypt’s GDP, according to Moody’s.

Map showing alternative route for shipping while Suez Canal blocked

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Separately, data from shipping journal Lloyd’s List shows the stranded ship is holding up an estimated $ 9.6bn of trade along the waterway each day. That equates to $ 400m and 3.3 million tonnes of cargo an hour, or $ 6.7m a minute.

Looking at the bigger picture, German insurer Allianz said on Friday its analysis showed the blockage could cost global trade between $ 6bn to $ 10bn a week and reduce annual trade growth by 0.2 to 0.4 percentage points.

And shipping broker Braemar ACM told the Wall Street Journal that the cost of renting some vessels to ship cargo to and from Asia and the Middle East jumped 47% this week to $ 2.2m.

Some vessels are being rerouted to avoid the Suez Canal. That is adding around eight days to their total journeys.

Countless businesses are affected

The Suez Canal blockage doesn’t just affect the global shipping industry or the Egyptian economy – countless businesses, from domestic transport providers to retailers, supermarkets and manufacturers are also impacted.

A container ship sailing through Egypt's Suez Canal on 17 November 2019

AFP
Suez Canal

  • 1869 waterway first opened

  • 2015canal expanded to include a 22 mile parallel channel

  • 120miles long

  • 205m wide

  • 24m deep

Source: Suez Canal Authority

The true damage and cost is difficult to evaluate until the ship is freed and trade resumes, but many firms will have to make critical decisions if the blockage continues for another week.

British firms told the BBC on Friday that they were still waiting to find out when goods are likely to arrive.

If the situation at the Suez Canal continues, some firms will have to pay to order more goods and have them sent over by air freight, which costs at least three times more.

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BBC News – Business

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