Suez Canal: Unprecedented blockage continues and could impact global shipping for months

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Suez Canal: Unprecedented blockage continues and could impact global shipping for months

Experts have said that impacts of the ongoing Suez Canal blockage are not going to be simple and immediate, but will likely be long-term, with one describing the situation as "dominos toppling each other over".

The ultra-large container ship Ever Given ran aground on Tuesday in the narrow, man-made canal that provides the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe, and through which around 10 percent of global trade passes.

The 400m-long (1,300ft) vessel - en route to Rotterdam, Netherlands, from China - became wedged across the canal amid high winds and a dust storm and efforts are ongoing to dislodge it. Shipping experts believe it could take days or even weeks to free the 224,000-ton vessel.

The situation continues to imperil global shipping, with at least 150 other vessels needing to pass through the crucial waterway waiting for the obstruction to clear, according to Global News. The ships include vessels near Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea, Port Suez on the Red Sea and those already stuck in the canal system on Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake.

The Japanese owner of Ever Give, Shoei Kisen Kaisha, apologized on Thursday, saying that it was trying to resolve the situation as soon as possible, but that dislodging the Ever Given was proving "extremely difficult".

Over $9 billion worth of goods is reportedly being disrupted on a daily basis by the blockage.

Lars Jensen, chief executive of Denmark-based SeaIntelligence Consulting, told Global News: “Blocking something like the Suez Canal really sets in motion a number of dominos toppling each other over.

"The effect is not only going to be the simple, immediate one with cargo being delayed over the next few weeks, but will actually have repercussions several months down the line for the supply chain.”

An article on The Conversation by several authors described the ship accident as a "worst-case scenario" for the Suez Canal and for knock-on effects on global trade.

It noted that since the canal was expanded, the Mediterranean end of the Canal now has two channels for ships to take, allowing seamless transiting even if one channel is blocked.

But, the authors said, in its current location at the Suez end of the Canal, the Ever Given is blocking the only channel for ships to pass through. As ships travel through the 193km of the canal in convoys with tightly scheduled slots, vessels leading these groups can block the channel like this, creating a backlog of ships or even collisions.

"It’s unclear if the goods being delayed are time-sensitive, but understanding what effects these incidents have on trade can help us pre-empt effective solutions," they said.

They went on to say: "While not identical to our team’s table-top scenario, the latest incident does highlight that as ships get larger and more complicated, their reliance on narrow shipping routes constructed in an earlier age looks increasingly risky.

"Today’s blockage will have limited long-term implications, but incidents like it could be triggered maliciously, causing targeted or widespread impacts on global and local trade. We need to be more aware of these weaknesses as our world becomes more connected."

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