Suez Canal still blocked, causing massive shipping jam

Low tide overnight has slowed efforts to dislodge a massive container ship that has choked traffic in both directions along the Suez Canal and created one of the worst shipping jams seen in years.

The Ever Given vessel ran aground diagonally across the single-lane stretch of the southern canal on Tuesday morning after losing the ability to steer amid high winds and a dust storm, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said in a statement.It is now blocking transit in both directions through one of the world’s busiest shipping channels linking Asia and Europe.

Suez Canal blockage halts $9.6bn a day of ship traffic

A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows there’s about $9.6 billion worth of daily marine traffic halted by the massive container vessel that lodged in the Suez Canal earlier this week, blocking transit in both directions.

The figure is based off an assessment by Lloyd’s List that suggests westbound traffic is worth around $5.1 billion a day and eastbound traffic approximately $4.5 billion.

The industry journal concedes that these are “rough calculations,” however.

More than 150 ships waiting to cross the canal

Canal service provider Leth Agencies said at least 150 were waiting for the Ever Given to be cleared, including vessels near Port Said on the Mediterranean sea, and the port of Suez on the Red sea as well as those already stuck on Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake.

Five things to know about the Suez Canal gridlock

Egypt’s Suez Canal handles about 10 percent of international maritime trade and is one of the world’s busiest waterways, providing a crucial link for oil, natural gas and cargo shipping between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

When opened more than 150 years ago, the canal was 164km (102 miles) long and eight metres (26 feet) deep, but after several expansions throughout the years, it is now 193km (120 miles) long and 24 metres (78 feet) deep.

The canal remains one of Egypt’s top foreign currency earners.

Owner of ship offers apology

The Japanese owner of the ship has apologised for the incident and the “tremendous worry” it has caused to the other vessels and their involved parties.

Shoei Kisen said it is cooperating with its technical management company and the local authorities to get the ship afloat, but “the operation is extremely difficult”.

“We are extremely sorry for causing tremendous worry to the ships that are traveling or schedule to travel in the Suez Canal, and all the related people.”

Tugs working to dislodge vessel

Efforts to dislodge the 400-metre long container vessel have resumed at high tide on Thursday, with tugs working to drag the vessel to deeper water, according to ship-tracking data.

Ship-tracking software shows five tugs surrounding the Ever Given and three more heading towards it.

At least 150 other vessels needing to pass through the crucial waterway idled waiting for the obstruction to clear, authorities said.

Oil prices fall slightly

Oil prices sank more than one percent a day after soaring seven percent in reaction to the ship getting stuck in the Suez Canal.

Crude, which tipped a 14-month high earlier this month, has suffered heavy selling in the past couple of weeks on fears about the impact on demand caused by new European lockdowns.

Axi strategist Stephen Innes said the Suez blockage “means increased oil on the water – either queuing for the canal or diverting around Africa. The extra voyage time is akin to ‘filling a pipeline’ and should support the very jittery market that has seen the rush for the door over the past five sessions”.

Only minor positional changes registered

Ship-tracking software shows that the Ever Given has made only minor changes to its position over the past 24 hours, despite the deployment of several tugs to drag it to deeper water, Reuters reported.

Several dozen vessels, including other large container ships, tankers carrying oil and gas, and bulk vessels hauling grain have backed up at either end of the canal to create one of the worst shipping jams seen for years.

Roughly 30 percent of the world’s shipping container volume transits through the 193 km (120 miles) Suez Canal daily, and about 12 percent of total global trade of all goods.

Ships may have to de-route around Africa

Shipping experts say that if the blockage is not likely to be cleared within the next 24-48 hours, some shipping firms may be forced to re-route vessels around the southern tip of Africa, which would add roughly a week to the journey.

But the chairman of the Suez Canal Authority told media that despite the blockage some cargo was able to move south and that efforts to dislodge Ever Given would continue.“Once we get this boat out, then that’s it, things will go back to normal. God willing, we’ll be done today,” Chairman Osama Rabie said.

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