Mar. 30, 2021

Ships Transit the Suez Again as Downstream Impacts Surface

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As container ship convoys transit the Suez Canal once again, the rest of global trade is braced for impact.

On Monday, the 20,124-TEU Ever Given was freed after six days of being lodged diagonally between the banks of the Canal. As diggers, dredgers, and tugboats came to her aid, cargo delays mounted.

With the return of normal operations, the backlog of ships will need approximately 6 days to clear the Canal. The timeline for each vessel is dynamic, but sailing from one end of the Suez to the other takes approximately 10-12 hours per vessel.

As for Ever Given, she’s getting a check-up in the Great Bitter Lake, a hypersaline pool in the middle of the Suez Canal. The lake is a point of no return: Ships can reverse course here, but once passed, there’s only one way out.

Crews are ensuring Ever Given is seaworthy before the journey to Rotterdam. They’ll make sure the ship’s machinery is safe, including engines, generators, and electrical and hydraulics systems. A review of the hull assures water can’t get into the ship.

Global Trade Impacts

While Ever Given undergoes inspection, the ships that were behind her are headed for congestion.

At the time of the accident, some carriers diverted vessels around the Cape of Good Hope, an arduous route that could add up to two weeks of delays. But many ships, originally scheduled to sail the Suez on different days during Ever Given’s blockage, are bunched together. Those ships will be traveling in clusters now, creating a wave of heavy arrivals across Europe, the US East Coast, and Asia.

As delays give way to congestion, signs of a container crisis appear again.

The shipping industry has been struggling to rebalance container availability levels since factories shut down due to Covid a year ago. In February 2021, container tracking indices showed the first signs of improvement, but as Ever Given floats, a new reality sinks in. Flexport customers are advised to book containers as far out in advance as possible and be flexible with equipment sizes and types.

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

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