The Suez Canal artificial waterway was first opened in 1869 and it was 164km long, 8m deep. It could accommodate ships with a capacity of 4,500 tonnes.
In the 1950s, the waterway was expanded, deepened, and lengthened following demands from several shipping companies. After the expansion, tankers with a capacity of about 27,000 tonnes were able to transit through the canal effortlessly.
The Suez Canal crosses a strip of land in Egypt between the Mediterranean and Red Sea called Suez Isthmus. The canal was expanded in 2015 to 193km long, 204m wide, and 24m deep to accommodate the sheer demand.
The Suez Canal is an artery of world trade that provides the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe. The other route, a passage around the southern tip of Africa, takes considerably longer.
Present-day, we are hearing about the unusual event of a giant container ship that has turned sideways and blocked all traffic in the Suez Canal. Taiwan-owned MV Ever Given, one of the largest cargo container ships in the world, caused a traffic jam of at least 100 vessels transiting through the man-made waterway after its hull became wedged length-ways across the canal on Tuesday.
The Suez Canal which is one of the world’s busiest maritime trade routes is now at a complete halt.
Evergreen Marine Corporation, the shipping company that operates the ship, said the ship lost the ability to steer amid high winds as it entered the Suez Canal from the Red Sea but none of the containers had been affected by this.
The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said it plans to dig out the ship if tugboats fail to rebalance the ship as the canal is vital for the movement of oil to liquified natural gas.
According to SCA, about 19,000 vessels with a net tonnage of around 1.2 billion tons passed through the canal last year – about 12% of global trade. 12% of worldwide supply is dependent on this canal. This is too big of a clog in the metaphorical and literal supply pipe to ignore.
Shipping sources said if the canal remains blocked for more than 24 hours, they could potentially start re-routing ships around Africa which would cause a delay of more than a week. The longer route will be more expensive in return threatening to increase oil prices among other things.
Disruptions caused by the coronavirus and a rise in demand for retail goods by consumers have led to wider logistical problems around the world for container lines and supplies in recent months and this incident further adds to the current woes.
The Kpler energy intelligence service said that more than 20 ships carrying crude and refined products were affected by the incident.
Moreover, Reuters reported the blockage has caused crude oil prices to rise by 4% on the international market yesterday and it will continue to rise until the issue is resolved.
According to experts, the next 24 hours will determine the long-term impacts to the global shipping system which has already been strained heavily by the COVID-19 pandemic and the future looks very bleak at the moment.