In November 2019, the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Suez Canal was celebrated with pomp and bustle. These days the public is looking at the sea route between Asia and Europe again, but this time with anxious eyes. A huge aground container ship is blocking the world’s most important shipping canal, which, according to the operating company Suez Canal Authority (SCA), passed through almost 19,000 ships last year, carrying a total of 1.17 billion tons of goods. That could have a drastic impact on world trade.
“Central supply chains are stalling due to a lack of containers, unpunctual ships and a lack of transport capacity, while costs are rising,” warns Holger Lösch, General Manager of the Federation of German Industries (BDI). 12 percent of the global trade volume goes through the Suez Canal, which saves ships 7,000 kilometers of sea travel. The alternative route is around the Cape of Good Hope.
Important role for the oil market
The canal between Port Said and Port Taufiq also plays an important role for the oil market: ten percent of the oil transported by sea is shipped through the Suez Canal, and eight percent of global liquefied gas production. According to the industry service S&P Platts, 80 tankers loaded with crude oil, fuel and chemical intermediates are waiting for the canal to become passable again.
The “Ever Given”, one of the largest container ships in the world, has been clogging the Suez Canal since Tuesday. She was on her way to Rotterdam with her cargo. Tug boats also tried on Thursday to move the 400 meter long and 59 meter wide transverse freighter. Rescue professionals are betting on the weekend when the tide will push heavily into the waterway between Europe and Asia. A team from the Dutch specialist company Smit Salvage also set out, as the head of the parent company Boskalis said. “That is, you could say, a stranded whale,” said Peter Berdowski on the Dutch broadcaster Nieuwsuur. Getting the “Ever Given” back on track could “take days or weeks”.
“Every day on which the ship blocks the Suez Canal means that the traffic jam still has to be cleared for a day,” says supply chain expert Joachim Schaut from the logistics service provider DB Schenker. If the ships could pass the Suez again, traffic jams could occur at the ports. “Well, that will keep us busy for at least another month or two,” said Schaut.
The port of Hamburg is used to delays
At the Port of Hamburg, Europe’s third largest port of call for seagoing vessels, there is still serenity. The blockade of the Suez Canal currently has no serious effects, it is said. One is used to delays.
“None of the ships were on time this year. So you see me with very little composure, because we can also handle these situations,” says Angela Titzrath, CEO of the Hamburg port company HHLA. So far, however, the corona pandemic, the weather and strikes in other ports have led to delays. “
For the Egyptian regime, the blockade of the Suez Canal means the loss of urgently needed revenue. According to official figures, the SCA generated $ 5.8 billion in the 2019/2020 financial year. For comparison: tourism brought Egypt 13 billion dollars a year before the corona pandemic. Most recently, the regime invested $ 8.4 billion to build another 36-kilometer-long canal lane, which opened in August 2015. The expansion was hailed as the “symbol of the new Egypt”. By 2023, the number of ships crossing the canal each day should double to 97. (help)