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Traffic Suspended, Ships Stuck

The Suez Canal Authority today announced that Traffic Through the Canal is Suspended

Chairman and Managing Director of the Suez Canal Authority has announced today; Thursday March 25th, 2021, that navigation through the Suez Canal is temporarily suspended. That is only until the floatation works of the large Panamanian container vessel EVER GIVEN; that ran aground at the 151 km area (Canal Marking), are complete.

The Ever Given is stuck sideways in the canal blocking all passage. 

Previously, the Suez Authority's plan was to allow 13 ships in the canal to move through a smaller channel. The plan now is to first free the Ever Given. 

In addition to the 13 ships stuck in the canal, hundreds of ships float outside the canal awaiting passage. 

With each passing hour, global supply chain disruptions mount.

Might Take ‘Days, Even Weeks’ to Free

Global supply chains are seriously disrupted as the "Ever Given" Might take Days, Even Weeks, to Free

Eight large tugboats were attempting to push and drag the ship from its unintended berth, the Suez Canal Authority said in a statement on Thursday, but at about 1,300 feet long — roughly equivalent to the height of the Empire State Building — and weighing around 200,000 metric tons, dislodging the Ever Given is proving challenging.

An attempt to extract the ship at around 8 a.m. on Thursday did not succeed, forcing salvagers to try again later in the day, the ship’s technical manager, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, said in a statement on Thursday. The company said that a specialized suction dredger had arrived to help dig the ship out.

Peter Berdowski, chief executive of Royal Boskalis Westminster, which has been appointed by Ever Given’s owner to help move the vessel, told the Dutch current affairs program Nieuwsuur on Wednesday that the operation to free the ship could take “days, even weeks.”

Mr. Berdowski, whose company has been involved in expanding the Suez Canal, said that Ever Given was stuck on both shallow sides of the V-shaped waterway. Fully loaded with 20,000 containers, the ship “is a very heavy beached whale,” he said.

Mr. Berdowski said that the Ever Given, operated by a company called Evergreen, was too heavy for tugboats alone, adding that salvagers might need to extract fuel, pump out water from the ballast tanks and remove some of the containers to make the ship lighter and therefore easier to move. And the dredging may require extra equipment, he said.

‘I’ve Never Seen Anything Like This’

Global supply chains were already under pressure before the Ever Given blocked the canal. 

I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Lars Mikael Jensen, head of Global Ocean Network at A.P. Moller-Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company. “All the links in the supply chain are stretched. The ships, the trucks, the warehouses.”

  • Off the coast of Los Angeles, more than two dozen container ships filled with exercise bikes, electronics and other highly sought imports have been idling for as long as two weeks.
  • In Kansas City, farmers are struggling to ship soybeans to buyers in Asia. In China, furniture destined for North America piles up on factory floors.Every container that cannot be unloaded in one place is a container that cannot be loaded somewhere else.
  • Empty containers are piled up at ports in Australia and New Zealand; containers are scarce at India’s port of Kolkata, forcing makers of electronics parts to truck their wares more than 1,000 miles west to the port of Mumbai, where the supply is better.
  • Rice exporters in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia are forgoing some shipments to North America because of the impossibility of securing containers.

“Everybody wants everything,” said Akhil Nair, vice president of global carrier management at SEKO Logistics in Hong Kong. “The infrastructure can’t keep up.”

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Over 100 Ships Backed Up as Vessel Stuck in Suez Canal Sideways

Yesterday, I noted Over 100 Ships Backed Up as Vessel Stuck in Suez Canal Sideways

The prognosis has gotten worse. 

Supply Chain Disruptions Mount

Pilot Error

The ship got stuck attempting to navigate the canal in extremely high winds.

Piloting ships such as this in wind conditions outside accepted operating parameters is a recipe for disaster,” said Gregory Tylawsky, a ship captain with the Maritime Expert Group based in Santa Rosa, Calif.

Assessing the Blame

The captain of the Ever Given appears to have made a huge error attempting to navigate the Suez Canal in high winds. 

However, the Canal Authorities should not have permitted passage in the first place.

This line of thought assumes the winds were too strong for safe passage before the ship entered the canal (or reasonably known to become so). 

If so, the Canal Authorities are more responsible than the captain of the ship.

Alternatively, if this was a sudden, unpredicted wind storm and the captain made no navigation mistakes, then this incident is just an unfortunate accident. 

Blame aside, the disruptions are serious and mounting.