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Ship Weighing 200,000-Ton Blocks Suez Canal Causing Disruptions and Losses. Here's All You Need to Know

FILE PHOTO: A container ship which was hit by strong wind and ran aground is pictured in Suez Canal

FILE PHOTO: A container ship which was hit by strong wind and ran aground is pictured in Suez Canal

Attempts to clear the way using tugs and diggers failed to dislodge the massive container ship stuck in the Suez Canal.

A skyscraper-sized cargo ship wedged across Egypt’s Suez Canal further imperiled global shipping Thursday as at least 150 other vessels needing to pass through the crucial waterway idled waiting for the obstruction to clear, authorities said. The container has choked traffic in both directions along the Suez Canal and created what is being referred to as the world’s largest shipping jam.

Attempts to clear the way using tugs and diggers failed to dislodge the massive container ship stuck in the Suez Canal.

The Ever Given, a Panama-flagged ship that carries cargo between Asia and Europe, ran aground Tuesday in the narrow, man-made canal dividing continental Africa from the Sinai Peninsula. In the time since, efforts to free the ship using dredgers, digging and the aid of high tides have yet to push the container vessel aside.

Egyptian officials and others were due to begin work again to free the vessel Thursday morning after halting for the night.

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As situation in the Suez Canal gets desperate as the important sea route gets ‘choked’, here is all you need to know about the turn of events and the potential challenges it posess:

How Did the Incident Occur?

The incident began on Tuesday when strong winds blasted in the region and kicked up sands along the banks. The narrow waterway and the difficulty in navigating due to poor visibility resulted in the crew losing control of the ship which careened sideways into a sandy embankment. Tugs and diggers have so far failed to dislodge a massive container ship stuck in the Suez Canal on Wednesday.

Is the Ship ‘Massive’?

The ship called ‘Ever Given’, en route to Rotterdam, Netherlands, from China is about a quarter mile long (400 meters). The ship’s size could be comprehended by the fact that it weighs 200,000 metric tons, which puts an end to efforts to dig it out. The containers atop the ship are as high as a 12-story building.

Are there Reasons to Worry About?

The ship is stranded at the narrow Suez Canal which connects Mediterranean in the north with the Red Sea in the south. The waterway is narrow — less than 675 feet wide (205 meters) in some places. The canal is among the most trafficked waterways in the world, used by tankers shipping crude from the Middle East to Europe and North America, as well as in the opposite direction. Due to stranded ship, at least 34 ships carrying 379,000 20-foot containers of stuff couldn’t move through the canal in either direction as of Wednesday afternoon. The loss and the traffic could magnify if the solution is not reached at the earliest.

What Can be done?

Experts say that it’s not easy to unstick a gigantic shipping vessel. On Wednesday the ship’s technical manager said that it had deployed dredging equipment to clear sand and mud from around the Ever Given. However, the process could take days, if not weeks. Meanwhile, dredgers are still trying to loosen the vessel before any attempt to pull it out, the ship’s manager said. Experts say that the chances of freeing the ship may not come until Sunday or Monday, when the tide will reach its peak.

Are there Losses Involved?

Even if there is a two-day delay would further add to the supply chain disruption slowing the delivery of cargo to businesses across the UK and Europe. Meanwhile, oil companies are starting to prepare for the worst. There was an uptick in interest from oil companies on Wednesday looking to book tankers with options to avoid the canal while there were several bid for space on the pipelines that allow bypass of the waterway completely. Experts suggest that the disruption comes amid volatile oil prices. There were surge in prices earlier this month due to Saudi production cuts and later there was an increase also due to setbacks in Europe’s coronavirus vaccine program. Therefore, the disruption could result in changing oil prices.

Low tide slows work

Low tide overnight has slowed efforts to dislodge the container vessel. Marine services firm GAC issued a note to clients overnight saying efforts to free the vessel using tug boats continued, but that wind conditions and the sheer size of the vessel “were hindering the operation”. Ship-tracking software shows that the Ever Given has made only minor changes to its position over the past 24 hours despite all efforts.