Suez Canal

Global freight chaos as Suez Canal remains blocked by giant tanker

A satellite image shows the stranded container ship Ever Given after it ran aground in the Suez Canal,
A satellite image shows the stranded container ship Ever Given after it ran aground in the Suez Canal, CNES/AIRBUS DS via REUTERS - CNES/AIRBUS DS

Tugboats and dredgers were working Friday to free a giant container ship blocking Egypt's Suez Canal for a fourth day, forcing bulk transport companies to re-route services from the vital shipping lane around Africa.

Advertising

The container vessel, MV Ever Given, which is longer than four football fields, has been wedged diagonally across the entire canal since Tuesday, shutting the strategic waterway in both directions.

The blockage has caused a huge traffic jam for more than 200 ships at either end of the 193-kilometre long canal and has resulted in major delays in the delivery of oil and other products.

An official from Shoei Kisen Kaisha, the Japanese company that owns the Ever Given, said Friday that crews were working to refloat the ship.

"Tugboats and dredgers are being used to crush rocks," in efforts to dislodge the boat, she told the French AFP news agency, adding the company did not have information on any damage to the vessel.

Crews were seen working through the night, using a large dredging machine under floodlights.

But the vessel with gross tonnage of 219,000 and deadweight of 199,000 has yet to budge, forcing global shipping giant Maersk and Germany's Hapag-Lloyd to consider re-routing around the southern tip of Africa.

African route adds 12 days to delivery times

"With the Suez Canal set to remain blocked for at least another day or two, shipping companies are being forced to confront the spectre of taking the far longer route around the Cape of Good Hope to get to Europe or the east coast of North America," said Lloyd's List, a shipping data and news company.

"The first container ship to do this is Evergreen's Ever Greet, a sistership to Ever Given," it said, adding the route takes an additional 12 days.

Egypt's Suez Canal Authority said the megaship veered off course and ran aground when winds reaching 40 knots whipped up a sandstorm that affected visibility.

Shipping expert Rose George said the blockage was certain to cause price increases for consumers around the world.

Lloyd's List said data indicated that 213 vessels were now stalled at either end of the canal, which links the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.

The blockage was holding up an estimated $9.6 billion worth of cargo each day between Asia and Europe.

Russia said on Friday that the jam had highlighted the importance of further developing its Arctic shipping route, which is increasingly accessible due to ice melt provoked by climate change.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning