Mar. 26, 2021

What’s Going on in the Suez Canal? Updates and Impacts from Ever Given

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At 7:40 AM EET (UTC+02:00) on Tuesday, March 23, the 20,124-TEU Ever Given ran aground in the Suez Canal, while sailing between the Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Malaysia, and the Port of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Knocked askew, the ship became wedged diagonally in the Canal, blocking up to 10% or more of global trade.

Here, Flexport will provide Ever Given updates and inside takes on the situation. For information on vessels diverted from the Suez Canal, see the Daily Tracker: Vessels Rerouted from the Suez.


Europe Prepares for Major Congestion

9PM PT - Monday, April 12 | 6AM CET - Tuesday, April 13

Congestion from the blockage of the Suez Canal poses a major threat to European and UK ports in the coming weeks. As impacts take shape, companies are facing snarled port traffic, delays, surcharges, and container crunches.

Blank sailings have been annnounced with calendar weeks 16 and 17 showing the greatest dip in offered capacity.

For tips to manage the onslaught of congestion, read How to Cope as Suez Congestion Hits Europe for the Next Month or More.

This entry concludes live updates to this post. To stay up to date on the latest supply chain trends, follow Flexport's blog or subscribe to our weekly Freight Market Updates. For all specific supply chain inquires, please reach out to your dedicated Flexport account team.


Suez Canal Backlog Improves, Port Congestion Spreads

11AM PT | 8PM CET - Wednesday, March 31

The backlog through the Suez Canal has continued to decrease from 422 vessels to just over 355 vessels. We expect to see the backlog cleared in the next three to six days.

While port congestion was initially concentrated in Northern European and Meditteranean ports, some carriers have announced temporary holds on new spot and other short-term contract bookings for most destinations.

Blank sailings have been announced for directly and indirectly impacted ports. Container availability continues to tighten as schedule reliability wanes.

For more on vessels diverted from the Suez Canal, see the Daily Tracker: Vessels Rerouted from the Suez.

Ships Sail the Suez Again, Headed for Congestion

16:50 PM PT - Tuesday, March 30 | 1:50 AM CET - Wednesday, March 31

After refloating on Monday, the Ever Given is now in the Suez Canal’s Great Bitter Lake, undergoing inspections to determine her seaworthiness.

Convoys of other vessels are transiting successfully through the Canal in both directions. The backlog of vessels will take approximately 6 days to pass through the Canal at approximately 10-12 hours per vessel.

The vessels that made it through the Suez Canal before the Ever Given accident are still on course for their scheduled destinations. Then, a lull will descend before the ships that were trapped in the Suez with Ever Given arrive next. Another lull will precede a spike in port arrivals as the ships rounding the Cape of Good Hope make it back on track.

Downstream impacts remain; container shortages are likely to become critical. Flexport customers are advised to book containers as far out in advance as possible and be flexible with equipment sizes and types.

Read: Ships Transit the Suez Again as Downstream Impacts Surface

For more, register for the webinar, The Ever Given Aftermath: Global Ocean Freight & Salvage Experts Weigh In.


She’s Free! But Now Come the Cargo Delays

18:25PM PT - Monday, March 29 | 3:25AM CET - Tuesday, March 30

After six days of digging and tugging, crews have freed Ever Given to sail on to Rotterdam. A dredger ship called the Mashhour has gone viral for a video of its boisterous crew celebrating after an intense labor effort—but there’s more to follow.

Over the next few weeks, we can expect a bunching of inbound vessels at Northern European and US East Coast ports. Delays and downstream impacts, like equipment shortages, port congestion and a potential shift to airfreight, will characterize supply chains during this time.

Read: Tugs and Tides Free Ever Given, but Cargo Delays Are Just Getting Started


Suez Canal Authority Says Ever Given Has Been Refloated

06:32 AM PT | 15:32 PM CET - Monday, March 29

The container ship Ever Given has been refloated. The Suez Canal Authority confirms in an update that the vessel has been refloated and is being towed towards Great Bitter Lake.


Suez Canal Authority Confirms That Ever Given Has Been Partially Refloated

12:30 AM PT | 9:30 AM CET - Monday, March 29

The container ship Ever Given that is blocking the Suez Canal has now been partially refloated and is 80 percent readjusted but the bow remains aground, confirms the Suez Canal Authority.

The operations to further dredge and excavate the ship, which has been grounded and blocking the canal since Tuesday, will continue later today when the tide rises again.


Is the Suez Canal Really Going to Reopen This Weekend?

7:00 PM PT | 01:00 AM CET - Saturday, March 27

Clashing opinions emerge as experts predict how long it could take to refloat Ever Given, after the ship became lodged in the Suez Canal on Tuesday morning.

The Egyptian President’s seaports advisor claims the Canal will be back in business by the end of this weekend. Maritime salvors have been reporting lead times of weeks.

Flexport CEO Ryan Petersen talked to David Stirling, one of the world’s leading maritime salvage experts, about what it takes to free a ship the size of Ever Given.

Read: While Global Trade Reroutes, Salvors Try to Free Ever Given from the Suez


Too Big to Sail? Ever Given’s Suez Canal Crash Is a Sign of the Times

Last Tuesday morning, the 20,000-TEU Ever Given ran aground while passing through the Suez Canal on its way to Rotterdam.

For now—and possibly weeks to come—the ship is stuck. In the immediate aftermath, up to 10% or more of the world’s global trade backed up on either side of the canal. Those ships are now diverted. The Cape of Good Hope is their likely detour.

Ever Given entered the canal at 8 knots, the Suez’ speed limit. By the first turn, she was at 13.6 knots. A dust storm, blown by fierce winds, limited visibility and knocked the ship askew.

“Speed and wind probably played a factor,” explains Nathan Strang, Flexport Senior Trade Lane Manager. “These ships are not nimble. They’re designed to go in one direction for a very long time, not navigate tight canals. Tugs go with the ships to help, but tugs aren’t designed for ships the size of Ever Given.”

Size Matters

Ever Given was built in 2018. At a quarter-mile long and a total 20,124-TEU capacity, she was one of the largest ships in the world at her launch. Now, she’s down to one of seven in 13th place for highest capacity.

That’s because container ships keep getting larger. For starters, operating one 20,000-TEU ship is cheaper than operating two 10,000-TEU ships. It’s greener, too: Emissions per container are less on a larger ship.

The big-ship trend shows no sign of downsizing. With demand for ocean capacity at an all-time high, more than 400 container ships—totaling 3.63 million TEUs—have been ordered new since late 2020.

In 1869, when the Suez Canal opened, the first ship to sail the entire canal, the HMS Newport, was 145 feet long. She was a good ship in her day, sent a few decades later, under a new name, to explore the Arctic for Northern Sea routes—but tiny by today’s standards.

A 2015 expansion created a second channel in the Suez, allowing easier two-way traffic, but the canal’s readiness for future behemoth ships seems debatable at this point.

Bigger Ships

Blame it on the modern era that we’re seeing more of these catastrophes at sea—and that they’re so expensive.

In the 2-month period between the end of November 2020 and the end of January 2021, almost double the annual average of containers went overboard. In the instance of ONE Apus, more than 1800 containers were lost—to the tune of more than $200 million.

No monetary amount has been attached to Ever Given’s losses yet, but the damages could be far higher than ONE Apus when tallied across all affected shipments.

Even partially afloat, the time it takes to dislodge the ship could be devastating. Memes, maps, and images of a lone excavator only fuel the speculation. Some salvors on the scene are warning Ever Given could break—a result of flexing where the floating and aground portions meet as the tide comes in and out.

And with the Suez Canal blocked, the ships going around the Cape of Good Hope need up to 10 to 14 additional days. The forecast ahead is delays, delays, delays.

But as unrelenting demand continues, super stacks of containers will keep pushing their way across the world—sometimes, at any cost.

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