Mar. 29, 2021

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

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The Ever Given is sailing again, after six very relatable days of being stuck amid global pandemic, economic pressure, and nonstop internet speculation.

Freed by dredgers, tugboats, and the rushing of a spring tide, the 20,124-TEU container ship is on her way to Rotterdam. She’s due to arrive at 2AM on March 31.

Refloating a ship of this magnitude is an exceptional feat. To get a cargo ship unstuck, crews have to dig around the ship, while tugboats pull. The process sounds simple enough, but container stacks, up to ten high, present a serious hazard. Plus, Ever Given was grounded at both bow and stern, wedged diagonally into the Suez Canal.

Approximately 30,000 cubic meters—or 188,000 bathtubs full—of sand and mud were removed from around Ever Given. The crew of a dredger ship called the Mashhour has gone viral, chanting on deck in celebration after their hard labor paid off.

It’s the feel-good moment the world deserves right now, but we’re not out of the deep end yet.

What Happens to Cargo Now?

Over the next few weeks, Europe and US East Coast ports will be most affected.

The vessels that made it through the Suez Canal before the Ever Given accident are still mostly on course for their scheduled destinations. After their arrivals in ports, a lull will descend before the ships that were trapped in the Suez with Ever Given arrive next. Then, 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 are inevitable:

  • De facto blank sailings are already occurring. With blank sailings, comes less capacity across the market. As of now, some carriers are accepting only limited bookings.
  • The ongoing container issue—a memento of early Covid shutdowns and compounded by a streak of boxes going overboard—is bound to worsen.
  • Airfreight is going to experience renewed demand, as companies realize business continuity may depend on the quick arrival of goods.
  • With a rise in air market demand, airfreight rates will likely rise, too.

Despite the utter calamity of it all, we’re rooting for Ever Given and her safe passage to Rotterdam. For updates on vessels diverted from the Suez Canal, see Flexport’s Daily Tracker: Vessels Rerouted from the Suez.

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