An ultra-large containership is aground and blocking ship traffic in the Suez Canal.
AIS data shows the MV Ever Given is stuck sideways towards the south end of the canal near Suez, Egypt, preventing ships from passing in either direction. Several tugs have been on scene for several hours working to dislodge the ship.
Shipping agent GAC reported that the grounding occurred at 7:40 a.m. local time on Tuesday (March 23) at kilometer 151 after the vessel suffered a black out while transiting (the operator has since said the grounding was due to high winds and not a black out).
It seems the Ever Given had just begun its transit of the waterway as part of a northbound convoy when the incident occurred.
“The 199,489 GT ship was fifth in the northbound convoy. None of the vessels before it were affected, but the 15 behind it were detained at anchorages waiting for the Canal to be cleared. The southbound convoy was also blocked,” GAC reported.
At 400-meters-long and a little over 20,000 TEU capacity, the Panama-registered MV Ever Given is among the largest of so-called “mega ships”, aka ultra-large container vessels (ULCVs), currently in operation.
The MV Ever Given is underway to Rotterdam from China.
The picture below was posted to social media by a person on the ship stuck behind the Ever Given:
Today’s grounding recalls other groundings involving UCLVs in recent years. In February 2016, the 399-meter CSCL Indian Ocean, a 19,100 TEU containership, was stuck for five days after running aground on the Elbe River near the port of Hamburg. It took as many 12 tugs to refloat the ship. In another incident in the Suez Canal, the 21,000 TEU OOCL Japan grounded in 2017 following a mechanical failure, but was refloated within a few hours and its impact was minimal.
Ultimately, how long the Ever Given remains stuck now depends on how hard aground she is and how favorable the tides are, or aren’t (tides on the south end can be range up to 1.9 meters). Whichever way it goes, we should know pretty soon considering the enormous importance of the waterway for global trade.
“Close to 16 million 20-foot containers (TEU) were carried by ships from Asia to Europe and the Mediterranean in 2020, down slightly on the 16.6 million TEU in 2019 because of the COVID-19 disruption in the second quarter, but the vast majority of that cargo is transported through the Suez Canal,” commented Greg Knowler, senior European editor at JOC by IHS Markit.
Knowler adds that with the Asia-Europe supply chain already stretched to the limit, the Suez Canal blockage comes at a particularly unhelpful time as container shipping lines have already deployed every available vessel to serve heavy demand from European and UK importers. Even a short delay has potential to add to the supply chain disruptions.
“An option for shipping lines is to reroute vessels around Africa and the Cape of Good Hope, but that will add more than 3,000 nautical miles and another week to the transit time from Asia to Europe. Ships will also have to speed up to maintain their weekly schedules, and an increase of 2 knots over five days of extra steaming will burn an additional 1,000 tons of fuel,” said Knowler.
Ever Given’s manager, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, has issued the following statement:
“Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) is responding to a grounding incident involving its managed containership EVER GIVEN (IMO: 9709257) which occurred at about 05:40 UTC on 23 March 2021 in the Suez Canal as the vessel was en route to Rotterdam, Netherlands.
“All crew are safe and accounted for. There have been no reports of injuries or pollution.
“BSM has made the necessary notifications to the relevant authorities and interested parties.
More information will be provided when there are material developments.”
Some more pictures of the ship in the Suez Canal are below:
In the photo below, it appears that Ever Given’s bulbous bow may have penetrated the bank of the canal.
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