Everybody’s talking about the container ship that has been stuck like a beached whale, on its way from China to Europe, in the Suez Canal since Tuesday (Mar 23) and dislodged a week later. Since the traffic along this busy canal has been suspended, there’s a lot of concern worldwide about its implications. Even for Singapore.
The Canal, the Container Ship, the Cockup
This Japanese-owned ship, the Ever Given (a vessel of Evergreen Marine’s fleet), became lodged after being caught in 40-knot winds and a sandstorm that caused low visibility and poor navigation. The vessel is one of the largest container ships in the world – at 400m-long and 220,000 tons, this “megaship” is too big to pass through another shipping lane: the Panama canal.
Data from vesselfinder.com, which tracks ships via GPS, showed that Ever Given made a rather peculiar-looking route to Suez, with some calling it a “dick move.”
The Suez canal in Egypt, opened in 1869, is a crucial route for oil, natural gas and cargo between Asia and Europe. Roughly 30% of the world’s shipping container volume transits through Suez, which accounts for around 12% of world trade.
As a result of the blockage, over 300 vessels have banked up on both sides of the beached ship. Any ships that plan to reroute will have to add 2 weeks to their voyage, and more than $26,000 a day in fuel costs.
The Ever Given is capable of carrying over 18,000 containers, so even with 2 dredgers clearing the silt around the ship, 9 tugboats, and 2 excavators to dig the sand away, it’s not really enough.
Experts were saying that dislodging the vessel could take “days to weeks” especially with its current cargo on board, and Egypt doesn’t have floating cranes capable of unloading the containers from the top. The best chance for freeing the ship may not come until Sunday or Monday, when the tide will be high enough.
The Singapore perspective
Singapore may have to brace for a possible disruption to supplies in the coming weeks, according to Transport Minister Mr Ong: “To have the Suez blocked is akin to a big tree falling across the Central Expressway (CTE). Every other expressway linked to the CTE will be affected.”
According to Mr Ong, our own PSA may see schedule disruptions if shipping lines reroute their journeys because the Suez, together with the Straits of Malacca and Singapore provide passage for a third of global sea trade that links Europe, Middle East, and Asia.
Somehow, another issue is that many commenters on local news social media channels can’t seem to wrap their heads around the vessel name.
A call for help?
Naturally, the best way we deal with disasters is with memes. Singaporeans called on their superheroes to help with the situation.
Of course, you’d expect the queen of interviewers in on the case:
The situation has been tenuous at best, creating logistical nightmares for all parties involved. We leave you here with this: