Supply lines all over the world are strained at best, and the last thing anyone in the industry needed was another problem to deal with. However, coincidence and bad luck have both led to another wrench in global shipping: one of the world’s largest cargo ships has run aground in the Suez Canal and is completely blocking the narrow passageway through the Egyptian canal.
Experts fear that this situation could disrupt already-tenuous global supply lines as traffic through the canal backs up to historic levels. The ship, called the MV Ever Given, somehow turned sideways before running aground. As such, it is blocking most of the canal and preventing any other cargo ships from moving through.
It is unclear how, exactly, the Ever Given got itself stuck. Global shipping company GAC explained only that the ship suffered “a blackout while transiting in a northerly direction,” leading to the grounding.
According to the ship’s owners, it was “overcome by strong winds” as it entered the canal, though it did not lose any shipping containers and all of the crew is present and accounted for. Moreover, there has been no pollution in the canal, meaning that the only impact from this accident is likely to be major shipping delays for two continents.
“Every day, 50 vessels on average go through that canal, so the closing of the canal means no vessels are transiting north and south,” a shipping expert named Salvatore R. Mercogliano told reporters. “Every day the canal is closed … container ships and tankers are not delivering food, fuel and manufactured goods to Europe and goods are not being exported from Europe to the Far East.”
Trade from places like Japan and Korea to Europe primarily goes through the Suez Canal. The canal, which is man-made, is very narrow at points, making it imperative that larger ships are careful when moving through it.
The Ever Given was making its course to Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, before it ran aground. The ship is wedged between the walls of the canal, with its stem and stern each touching the artificial barriers on either side of the canal. Tug boats are presently attempting to pull the ship back into the correct course, but its position and mass are making this difficult.
Even as sailors are exhausted from the breakneck pace of shipping, this crisis comes as a dreadful moment of unwelcome calm.