Enormous Container Ship Blocks Supplies to Europe and the US

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Posted on 26th March 2021

As if transportation wasn't hard enough due to pandemic restrictions and delays, now one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes is blocked.  The container ship was sailing from Asia on route to Rotterdam before being firmly wedged in the Suez Canal, Egypt.  

Run aground and stuck sideways, recent attempts to rectify the problem have failed.  Initially, multiple tugboats tried to manoeuvre the enormous ship without success.  To give you an idea of the sheer size of this Panama flag container vessel it’s 400 metres long and carrying 18,000 containers, making it one of the largest shipping vessels in the world.

Though it is unclear how the blockage happens, a sandstorm happens the day the vessel arrived (Tuesday 23 March) and the crew may have had restricted visibility.  

This has put an enormous strain on the international shipping industry as more than 300 ships waiting to pass through the canal with numbers growing daily.  


$4 million (US) an hour in goods is lost, every day the ship is blocking the canal. This number is based on the dollar amount of goods usually moving through the Suez Canal daily. Food, medical supplies and fuel all move through the Suez from Asia on its way to Europe so expect to see an increase in these items.  To really grasp the seriousness of this disruption, around 12% of global trading moves through this canal.  


However, finally, there’s seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel – or should we say canal!  It’s just going to take more time.  A combination of diggers widening the banks and extra tugboats pushing the container vessel is slowly giving way to progress.   


If significant improvement doesn’t happen this week ships will be diverted around the Horn of Africa.  This will add 7-9 days at sea, not to mention the risk of piracy and negotiating dangerous waters.


One thing is clear, the longer this delay lasts, the higher the risk of massive congestion problems in the European ports.  

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