Chapman Freeborn blog

Suez Canal blockage – 400m container ship is wedged in the canal bank of one of the world’s busiest trade routes

The world is watching the Suez Canal. This Egyptian passage, which opened in 1989, connects the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and is the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe. It usually plays host to approximately 20,000 ships annually, making it one of the world’s busiest trade routes, accounting for 12% of global trade.

A colossal container ship has become stuck across the canal. The Ever Given is one of the largest ships in the world, measuring 400m – the length of 4 football pitches. It weighs 224,000 tonnes and has the capacity to hold 20,000 containers. Navigating such a ship through the canal is a precise operation, and on Tuesday 23rd March strong winds and an accompanying sandstorm threw this into disarray; the Ever Given was blown off-course and it became wedged into the canal bank.

Parts of the Suez Canal have been widened over the past 10 years in an attempt to modernise it, but the new generation of enormous vessels that the Ever Given belongs to makes the relatively narrow width (205m) tricky. Historically, ships were smaller, making such passages easier.

Rescue operations are currently underway, with tugboats attempting to refloat the Ever Given and dredgers removing sand from the canal bank that it is lodged in. But it is a huge undertaking and experts are concerned that it could be weeks before the ship is freed.

In the meantime over 150 vessels are stuck in the canal, unable to pass through. This amounts to $9.6bn/£7bn of goods per day – including enormous amounts of oil. This has caused oil prices to rise by 4% on international markets.

Whilst some ships are waiting for the Ever Given to become un-wedged, others are being diverted. Their new route is via the Cape of Good Hope at the most southern tip of Africa. This is a 3,500 mile detour and adds approximately 12 days onto each ship’s journey.

The uncertainty of the situation is very worrying for companies and consumers all over the world, and it is too soon to tell when the crisis will be averted. That’s why Chapman Freeborn is ready to help get your cargo moving right now. With over 45 years of experience in cargo charter, we work with our clients and air carriers to expertly arrange the delivery of your freight.

Get in touch today to find out how we can help you get your cargo moving.