The “Ever Given” is still blocking the Suez Canal. The 400 meter long freighter got stuck in the important waterway between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. How long the lockdown will last is unclear. Dredgers and tugs have been trying to move the container ship for days. So far without success.
The Egyptian government is constantly asserting that the blockade will soon be resolved. But that should be treated with caution. Leon Zacharias (25), trained ship merchant and logistics expert at the University of St. Gallen (HSG): “The local port authorities are very interested in the shipping companies continuing to believe in a quick release of the canal. After all, they want to prevent at all costs from deciding to take the 6,000-kilometer detour around Africa. “
Every freighter that crosses the Suez Canal earns Egypt around CHF 250,000 in fees. By Friday evening alone, more than 200 ships were stowed on both sides of the canal.
USA offers help
In the meantime, even US President Joe Biden (78) has intervened. He offered the USA to help save the “Ever Given”. However, independent experts do not rule out that the recovery could take days or even weeks. The ship may even have to be unloaded to reduce its weight – a Herculean task.
There is, however, one factor that could make the liberation of the “Ever Given” easier: the moon. As is well known, the celestial body causes ebb and flow – and could thus become a savior in an emergency. Zacharias: “The tides will cause the water level in the Suez Canal to rise by around 30 centimeters on Monday. So the tides could help to get the cargo ship free. “
Bad luck or human error?
Uncertainties and question marks remain – also with regard to the cause of the accident. One thing is clear: the fact that the “Ever Given” is one of the largest cargo ships in the world has at least made the accident a little easier. “Ten years ago nobody expected that one day such large container ships would be on the move,” says Zacharias. The “Ever Given” was launched in 2018 and can transport 20,000 containers. Just a few years ago, the largest cargo ships had a capacity of 8,000 to 10,000 containers. “Although the Suez Canal was expanded in 2015, there is still very little leeway for a ship like the Ever Given to cross.” It is said that the tanker was tilted by strong winds and a sand storm.
At this point in time, human error cannot be ruled out either. An extraordinary maneuver by the ship a few hours before the accident gives rise to speculation: while waiting for the entry signal in the Red Sea, the captain and his crew steered a course whose track resembles a huge penis. This is shown by recordings from electronic trackers that follow all ship movements.
Coincidence? Or an indication that the conscientiousness on board left a lot to be desired even before the accident?
Schiffscrews im Corona-Stress
Expert Zacharias does not want to speculate. But it is an open secret that the mood on many cargo ships is currently extremely tense. «Due to the Corona measures, the teams cannot be exchanged as usual. Some crew members have therefore been on the same ship for more than a year. That pulls on the nerves. “
At the same time, the shipping companies are operating at their capacity limit. “Because there is much less flown, the transport of goods in the belly of passenger planes is no longer necessary – and they are shifted to the ships,” says Wolfgang Stölzle (58), director of the Institute for Supply Chain Management at the HSG and honorary managing director of the consulting firm Logistics Advisory Experts.
Huge follow-up costs
In addition, the economy in China is humming again and European companies are replenishing their inventories in anticipation of the economic recovery. “The costs per shipping container have therefore increased from $ 2000 to $ 9,000 since last November.”
The blockade of the Suez Canal complicates the situation even more. The detour around Africa costs the ships around two weeks and reduces transport capacities. “This will be expensive, especially for European industrial companies that are waiting for important intermediate goods from Asia. In the worst case, you have to shut down production. “
Of course, this also affects Switzerland, says Stölzle: “A new study shows that 94 percent of Swiss imports from Asia and America come to us by ship.”
The follow-up costs of the Suez Canal blockade are therefore enormous – and increase with every day that the “Ever Given” gets stuck.
Published: 03/27/2021, 5:33 p.m.