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One of the largest container ships in the world has crossed the Suez Canal and is blocking the important transport link between Europe and Asia. The Panamanian flag “Ever Given” ran aground on Tuesday about six kilometers north of Suez, the Egyptian authorities announced on Wednesday. The almost 400 meters long and 59 meters wide ship is stuck between the two banks of the canal.
Tugs tried to get the obstacle out of the way on Wednesday as ships lined up waiting to pass the canal again. No effort will be left untried, said the head of the operating company Suez Canal Authority, Ossama Rabei.
The shipping and logistics company GAC said that the electricity on the container ship had failed. The ship manager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) denied this. The ship operator Evergreen Marine from Taiwan informed the AP news agency that the “Ever Given” had been hit by strong winds.
An Egyptian official made a similar statement. BSM assured that the team was safe, there had been no injuries or environmental damage. Containers did not go overboard.
The bow of the “Ever Given” touched the eastern wall of the canal, according to data from MarineTraffic.com. Her stern seemed to be stuck on the western wall. Pictures were posted on Instagram showing an excavator apparently trying to remove sand from under the bow.
On Wednesday morning, GAC announced that they were working to free the cargo from the ship. However, both the wind conditions and the size of the freighter made this work difficult. Eight tug boats are in use to free the stuck ship, said the Egyptian Suez Canal authority. There were no injuries or environmental damage; Containers did not go overboard, it is said.
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Even for experienced seafarers, it is not easy to steer a 400-meter-long steel giant through the narrow shipping channel in currents and crosswinds. The desert wind can sweep over the canal here at a stormy 40 or 50 knots per hour (approx. 74 km / h to 92 km / h).
The freighter “Ever Given” is 400 meters long and 59 meters wide, making it one of the largest container ships in the world, according to experts. However, there are now several of them. Measured against the maximum number of containers on the ship, “Ever Given” is not the largest ship. The ship, built in 2018, came from China and was on its way to Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
With the freighter, 15 more ships wanted to cross the canal in a convoy. These ships also wait at anchorages to continue their journey. Experts anticipate huge sums of money that the transport companies will lose due to the blockade.
It is still unclear when the shipping route can be fully opened again. However, according to an Egyptian official, this could take at least two days to free the ship. The canal authority expressed itself more optimistically on Wednesday lunchtime: The ship was partially able to get afloat again. As soon as the freighter can be towed to another point in the canal, shipping should be resumed.
Influence on trade
According to experts, the accident could have an impact on world trade because the Suez Canal significantly shortens shipping routes between Europe and Asia. Shipping on the narrow Egyptian waterway stopped on Tuesday. “An average of 50 ships pass through the canal every day,” said historian and maritime trade expert Salvatore Mercogliano of Campbell University in North Carolina. Every day the canal is closed means that no food, industrial products and no fuel can be delivered.
Kaspar Engeli, Director of the Swiss Trade Association, said of the incident: “The question is how long it will take. According to our information, there are a few hundred ships that are now on their way from Asia to Europe stand. If the blockage lasts for days, delivery delays may occur, depending on the product. That is quite conceivable, “said Engeli on request.
For this to have serious effects, it would have to come to a standstill for several days, Engeli continued. “Because the ships calculate with a time buffer – depending on the weather and detours. ” The alternative routes are difficult: “Around Africa it takes at least a week longer. Everything is on the ships from Asia to Europe – from furniture, entertainment electronics, cars, clothes to dishes. In the opposite direction, it is mainly machines or pharmaceutical products. Depending on what is being exported, this can also be critical when it comes to fixed times. “
Oil prices rose
The traffic jam has an impact on oil prices. These rose on Wednesday. In the morning, a barrel (159 liters) of Brent North Sea oil cost $ 61.63. That was 84 cents more than the day before. The price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) branded American crude rose 62 cents to $ 58.38.
On Tuesday, oil prices had fallen significantly, to their lowest level since the beginning of February. The main reason was concerns about the demand for crude oil due to rising corona infections and new restrictions, especially in Europe. Both are weighing on the economic outlook. On Wednesday, however, supply concerns outweighed it.
The waterway connects the Mediterranean with the Red Sea. Dozens of container ships congested both north and south of the canal. A significant part of the energy transport from the Middle East to Europe and the USA runs through the canal. About 10 percent of world trade goes through the Suez Canal. Deliveries from the North Sea to Asia are also affected in the opposite direction.
From one-way to two-way traffic
The Suez Canal is 163 kilometers long and was built almost 150 years ago. It saves having to bypass Africa on the route from Europe to Asia. A large part of the goods between the two economic areas as well as the oil from the Arab states to Europe is transported via the canal.
A new section of the canal was opened in 2015. This made it possible for a convoy to go in both directions every day. Both convoys can pass through the now parallel canal sections without stopping.
For the expansion, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had collected the money from the Egyptians, only ten pounds was the smallest denomination of the share certificates, 1.15 euros, so that not only the upper class could subscribe. In eight days, the National Bank had the necessary $ 8.4 billion. Perhaps, in addition to patriotism, the twelve percent interest contributed to it.
Nothing is as closely intertwined with the nation’s identity as the Suez Canal. Almost every Egyptian knows the story – more precisely: the Egyptian version of it. Egypt’s decline began with the canal. Because the Khedive Ismail Pasha drove the country to ruin with the construction and the pompous opening. That doesn’t diminish pride in the achievement tens of thousands of Egyptians lost their lives for, but the Viceroy soon had to sell his stake in the canal company. The debts he accumulated were used by the British and French as an excuse to make Egypt a de facto colony.
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Not the first incident with the “Ever Given”
The freighter made headlines two years ago. On February 9, 2019, the ship destroyed a 25-meter-long ferry boat near the port of Hamburg. Even then, strong winds are said to have thrown the ship off course. Two minutes after the collision, a driving ban was even imposed on the Elbe due to strong winds.