A cargo container ship that is among the largest in the world has turned aside and blocked all traffic in Egypt’s Suez Canal, officials said on Wednesday, threatening to disrupt a global shipping system already strained by the coronavirus pandemic.
MV Ever Given, a Panama-flagged container ship that trades between Asia and Europe, was founded on Tuesday in the narrow, artificial waterway that separates continental Africa from the Sinai Peninsula.
It was not immediately clear what made Ever Given turn sideways in the canal. GAC, a global shipping and logistics company, described “Ever given” as “a blackout as it passes in a northerly direction” without elaborating.
Evergreen Marine Corp., a large Taiwan-based shipping company that operates the ship, said in a statement to the Associated Press that Ever Given had been overcome by strong winds as it entered the Suez Canal from the Red Sea but none of its containers had sunk.
The Suez Canal, one of the most important shipping lanes in the world, is reportedly blocked because someone accidentally got stuck with his giant container ship. The photo is unreal. pic.twitter.com/I2ACkBqPi2
– Marcel Dirsus (@marceldirsus) March 23, 2021
An Egyptian official who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to inform journalists in the same way blamed a strong wind in the area of the incident. Egyptian forecasters said strong winds and a sandstorm plagued the area on Tuesday, with winds blowing as much as 50 km / h (31 mph).
“All crews are safe and accountable,” says Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, who handles Ever given. “No damage or contamination has been reported.”
Ever Given’s arch touched the eastern wall of the canal, while the stern looked toward the western wall, according to satellite data from MarineTraffic.com. Several tugboats surrounded the ship and probably tried to shoot it in the right way, the information showed.
An image posted on Instagram by a user on another waiting cargo ship seemed to show that Ever given is tickled over the channel shown in satellite data.
The Egyptian official said tugs were hoping to float the ship and that the operation would take at least two days. The ship ran aground about 6 kilometers north of the southern mouth of the canal near the city of Suez, an area of the canal that is a single lane.
It could have a major strain on global shipping moving between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, warned Salvatore R. Mercogliano, a former trade mariner and associate professor of history at North Carolina Campbell University.
“Every day, an average of 50 ships pass through that canal, so the closure of the canal means that no ships pass north and south,” Mercogliano told the AP. “Every day the canal is closed … container vessels and tankers do not deliver food, fuel and manufactured goods to Europe and goods are not exported from Europe to the Far East.”
The channel authorities could not be reached immediately by the AP early on Wednesday.
The Ever Given had listed its destination as Rotterdam in the Netherlands before it got stuck in the canal. The ship, built in 2018 with a length of almost 400 meters (a quarter of a mile) and a width of 59 meters (193 feet), is among the largest cargo ships in the world. It can carry about 20,000 containers at a time.
The Suez Canal opened in 1869 and is an important link for oil, natural gas and goods being transported from east to west. About 10% of the world’s trade flows through the waterway and it is still one of Egypt’s leading foreign exchange agents. In 2015, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s government completed a major expansion of the canal to accommodate the world’s largest ship. However, Ever stranded before the new part of the canal.
The event on Tuesday is just the latest to affect sailors in the midst of the pandemic. Hundreds of thousands have been stranded on ships due to the pandemic. At the same time, the demands on shipping have increased, which increases the pressure on tired sailors, says Mercogliano.
“It’s because of the furious speed of global shipping right now and shipping is on a very tight schedule,” he said. “Add to that the fact that seafarers have not been able to get on and off ships due to COVID restrictions.”