The massive cargo container ship that was headed towards the Mediterranean and caused an actual traffic jam on one of the busiest sea trade links, the Suez Canal after it ran aground sideways may have contained some really, really bad luck. The 200,000-tonne vessel, named ‘Ever Given’ and operated by Taiwanese company Evergreen Marine ended up lodging sideways sometime in Tuesday after being hit by strong winds. The incident has ended up blocking several ships on either side on one of the most important sea routes. The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and is also the shortest sea route between Asia and Europe. Digging boats have been set to work to help the stuck vessel back on its route.
The vessel is 400m long and 59 metres wide and has made it impossible for any other ship to pass through. Egypt has reportedly reopened the canal’s older channel to allow the other vessels to pass through as the refloating the Ever Given might take some time, thus delaying vessel movement.
Not just getting stuck, Ever Given’s journey was even more cursed than expected, as just before getting lodged in the canal, it charted a course that resembled a huge phallus. Tracking data from vesselfinder.com and myshiptracking.com websites clearly shows what resembles a giant phallus, and probably a posterior right in the middle in the Red Sea.
— VesselFinder (@VesselFinder) March 24, 2021
A spokesperson for vesselfinder.com confirmed to VICE that the ship-tracking data was accurate.
The ship’s company Evergreen Marine reportedly said that the ship “suspected of being hit by a sudden strong wind, causing the hull to deviate… and accidentally hit the bottom and run aground”. The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) has said that it is working to get the ship to refloat.
SCA chairman Admiral Osama Rabie said in a statement that “rescue and tug units are continuing their efforts” to free the MV Ever Given.
Bloomberg reported it had caused a build-up of more than 100 ships seeking to transit the canal.
“There was a grounding incident,” Alok Roy, fleet director of BSM Hong Kong, the Ever Given ship manager, told the news agency.
Photographs released by the SCA also showed excavators onshore digging soil from the canal’s bank, with the earth-moving equipment dwarfed by the giant hull towering above.
The canal, which links the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, was opened to navigation in 1869, and was expanded in 2015 to accommodate larger ships.
MarineTraffic showed a map with large clusters of vessels circling at both ends of the canal — in the Mediterranean off Port Said, and in the north of the Red Sea. In the canal itself, the map showed at least six tug boats near the stuck Ever Given. Shipping website Vessel Finder said the ship was bound for Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and it was unclear why the vessel had stopped moving.
“Tug boats are currently trying to re-float the vessel,” Leth Agencies, which provides crossing services to clients using the canal, said on Twitter.
The Suez Canal is one of the world’s most important trade routes, providing passage for 10 per cent of all international maritime trade.
The journey between ports in the Gulf and London, for example, is roughly halved by going through the Suez — compared to the alternate route via the southern tip of Africa.
Nearly 19,000 ships passed through it last year carrying more than one billion tonnes of cargo, according to the Suez Canal Authority (SCA).
It has been a boon for Egypt’s struggling economy in recent years, with the country earning $5.61 billion in revenues from the canal in 2020. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi unveiled plans in 2015 for an expansion designed to reduce waiting times and double the number of ships using the canal daily by 2023.
In February, Sisi ordered his cabinet to adopt a “flexible marketing policy” for the canal in order to cope with the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Container ships account for more than half of the canal’s total traffic, with some of them being among the largest in the world reaching a capacity of up to 23,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit).
Most of the cargo travelling from the Gulf to Western Europe is oil.
In the opposite direction, it is mostly manufactured goods and grain from Europe and North America headed to the Far East and Asia.