The Suez Canal (Numbers)

The Suez Canal (Numbers)

Today we are going to talk about an event that has been in the news this week. Maybe you have seen that a huge ship has blocked the Suez canal and has caused all kinds of trouble.

Today it has been partially freed from the shoreline, the Suez Canal Authority has said. The situation has been the source of much worry and frustration for the global shipping industry.

The boat is called the Ever Given and is 400m-long (1,312ft) and weighs 200,000 tonnes, with a maximum capacity of 20,000 containers. It is currently carrying 18,300 containers.

The ship is operated by Taiwanese transport company Evergreen Marine and is one of the world’s largest container vessels.

It became stranded on Tuesday, after running aground and becoming lodged sideways across the waterway. At first a gust of wind was thought to be to blame. The wind speed at the time was recorded at 40 knots, but the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) told reporters that this was not the only reason for the ship becoming stranded.

An investigation would be needed to determine whether technical or human errors occurred, they added.

As of Sunday, there were 369 ships stuck in a tailback waiting to pass through the 193km (120-mile) canal on either side of the blockage.

Over the weekend, 14 tugboats pulled and pushed the Ever Given at high tide to try to dislodge it and were able to move the ship “30 degrees from left and right”.

​Then on Monday, after several reports that the ship had been partially refloated, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) issued a statement saying that the Ever Given had been “successfully refloated”.

The SCA said it would resume manoeuvres later on Monday, “allowing for the full restoration of the vessel’s direction so it is positioned in the middle of the navigable waterway”.

Richard Mead, managing editor of shipping journal Lloyd’s List, told the BBC’s Today Programme: “It’s clear the Suez Canal is going to start reopening to traffic later today, once they’ve done a full inspection.”

He added that some smaller ships have already started transiting past the vessel.

“We’re looking at about 450 ships still waiting to transit the canal. It’s going to be a lengthy process clearing that backlog,” he said.

About 12% of global trade, around one million barrels of oil and roughly 8% of liquefied natural gas pass through the canal each day.

SCA chairman Osama Rabie on Saturday that the Canal’s revenues were taking a $14m-$15m (£10.2m-£10.9m) hit for each day of the blockage.

Looking at the bigger picture, German insurer Allianz said on Friday its analysis showed the blockage could cost global trade between $6bn to $10bn a week and reduce annual trade growth by 0.2 to 0.4 percentage points.

Shipping broker Braemar ACM told the Wall Street Journal that the cost of renting some vessels to ship cargo to and from Asia and the Middle East had jumped 47% to $2.2m.

Some vessels have changed route to avoid the Suez Canal. That is adding around eight days to their total journeys.

The true damage and cost is difficult to evaluate until the ship is fully freed and trade resumes.

British firms told the BBC on Friday that they were still waiting to find out when goods were likely to arrive.

One UK company, Seaport Freight Services, said it had 20 containers of goods stranded on the Ever Given

“We’re waiting on food goods like coconut milk and syrups, some spare parts for motors, we’ve got some fork lift trucks, some Amazon goods on there, all sorts,” the company said.

Imagine you are the captain of the boat and you need to explain the whole situation to your boss! It’s going to be very difficult.

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