After the breakdown of the “Ever Given”, around 370 freighters line up at the ends of the Suez Canal, and it will take days for the traffic situation to normalize. There are now fears of a “ketchup bottle effect” in the ports.
Thanks to Dutch specialists and the full moon, which had a stronger influence on the tides in the Suez Canal at the weekend, the stuck mega-freighter “Ever Given” was freed. Now one of the world’s most important trade routes is navigable again: On Monday evening, YM Wish, flying under the Hong Kong flag, was the first to pass the canal again – the 368-meter colossus ran aground in the German Elbe six years ago. At that time, however, the accident could be remedied after a day, the damage remained manageable.
But now it should be days before the queues of mega-freighters at the northern and southern approach of the canal break up. According to the canal authority, around 370 ships are waiting to continue through the eye of the needle. The head of the Egyptian canal authority, Osama Rabie, estimates that it will take “around three and a half days” for the traffic jam to clear. Probably an overly optimistic assumption. Usually 50 ships pass through the Suez Canal every day. Accordingly, it is expected that it will certainly take a week before all waiting freighters can pass and continue their journey.
130,000 sheep in line with ships
The waiting for the live cargo on at least 20 ships is particularly dramatic. In addition to the Spanish, eleven Romanian freighters with 130,000 sheep are said to be stuck on board. According to the Romanian veterinary authorities, there is enough food and water on board for the coming days, but animal rights activists fear that the sheep could perish. “You should now prioritize ships with living cargo,” demands Christian Denso from the Association of German Shipowners (VDR) on Spiegel.de. Some ships loaded perishable goods that could be refrigerated. Most of the ships carried uncritical cargo.
Even if the passage is smoothly possible again – there is no end to the chaos in sight. It is expected that there will now be a “ketchup bottle effect” in the ports: first nothing comes, then far too much all at once. Traffic jams in the ports, which are already heavily used due to the pandemic, are inevitable.
Syria has to ration
It is not yet possible to estimate what kind of economic damage the blockade in the Suez Canal and the subsequent delays will cause. The dimensions are enormous: According to the BBC, the clogged channel is holding goods worth almost ten billion US dollars – every day. Or to put it another way: the breakdown has tied up 15 percent of the capacity of the global container trade. “90 percent of global retail trade is transported in containers,” the New York Times quoted a sea trade expert as saying. “Name any brand – it will be loaded on one of the waiting freighters.”
The Suez Canal is an important trade route for the chemical and automotive industries, among other things. But not only: At present, freighters with a total of 9.8 million barrels of crude oil are lined up in front of the Suez Canal, about a tenth of the daily global consumption. The Syrian energy authority is already complaining that oil deliveries to the country have been interrupted and that rationing has to be carried out in order to guarantee that the daily needs of the population are met.
Average damage exacerbates the consequences of the corona crisis
In addition, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), the consequences of the corona crisis worsen the situation considerably. In addition to the pandemic, the average is an “additional burden” for maritime trade, the institute said. This tends to drive up the prices for the sea trade, “which sooner or later will also be reflected in the product prices”.
According to the information provided by the institute, the transport costs for a container from Asia to Europe exploded at the turn of 2020/21. The temporary blockade in the Suez Canal and the resulting traffic jam could only worsen this situation and also trigger higher transport costs from Europe to Asia. The prices of end products and intermediate goods could rise.
The mega-freighter “Ever Given” got into a sandstorm last week and ran aground. The 400-meter-long ship was then stuck across the narrow canal, with more than 400 ships in front of and behind it. On Monday morning, the container ship was finally released and almost completely turned back in the right direction. The freighter is to be examined at the Great Bitter Lake at the northern end of the Suez Canal. It is unclear when he will be able to continue his journey to Rotterdam.