The massive container ship blocking one of the world’s most important shipping routes has finally been freed, having spent six days wedged midway along the Suez Canal. Canal authorities have at last confirmed that it is free and on the move.
Tugboat teams and heavy machines finally managed to nudge the MV Ever Given free as more than 150 ships queued to get past and the ship’s owner apologised for the inevitable knock-on effect on global supply chains.
It spent six days floundering in Egypt’s historic Suez Canal, which was opened in 1869 to create a channel between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea that allowed cargo vessels to pass between Europe and Asia without having to make interminable journeys through the south Atlantic, around the Cape of Good Hope and into the Indian Ocean, the passage today accounting for approximately one-tenth of the world’s seaborne freight.
How long is the ship?
The Ever Given is a behemoth, stretching 400 metres or a quarter of a mile in length and 58.8 metres across, which was no small part of the problem.
It is one of the largest ships of its kind in the world and weighs an astonishing 220,940 tonnes, with the capacity in place to carry 20,124 20-foot equivalent unit containers.
To put it another way, it’s longer than four football pitches and is 20 times heavier than the Eiffel Tower with a top speed of 22.8 knots, or 26.2mph.
When was it built?
The mega-ship was assembled by Japan’s Imabari Shipbuilding, with work commencing on 25 December 2015.
It was first launched at sea on 9 May 2018 and completed the following autumn on 25 September.
The Ever Given is owned by Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd of Japan but operated by the Taiwanese shipping giant Evergreen and registered in the Port of Panama.
Is the Suez Canal a two-way traffic system?
Yes it is – and the Ever Green is currently blocking the passage of ships in both directions, with vessels currently queueing for entrance at Port Said to the north and Port Tewfik to the south.
The stranded ship itself was heading north towards the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands from China when it ran into difficulties.
What happened exactly?
While attempting to pass along the Suez Canal on Tuesday, the Ever Given was struck by 30mph winds, which caused it to drift off course and its hull to become stuck in the canal bed, the length of the vessel blocked the entire channel and preventing any other ships from squeezing past in either direction.
Eight tugboats worked with diggers removing sand from the bank and finally managed to free the ship on Monday.
“The Suez Canal will not spare any efforts to ensure the restoration of navigation and to serve the movement of global trade,” lieutenant-general Ossama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority, said.
With traffic backed up, there were even concerns the stranded vessel could become a target for terror attacks while the business community were concerned over the consequences of the delays to cargo delivery for the global economy.
“Even the slightest delay in traffic can result in congestion and disturb the delivery of goods and commodities on both sides,” analysts at S&P Global Platts have warned.
Ranjith Raja, head of MENA oil and shipping research at Refinitiv, commented: “Despite this morning’s great news on re-floating, the Canal is still not passable and so will this figure will inevitably grow. If the SCA is considering discounts for vessels affected by the blockage, which will result in a further loss of revenue.
He added that it will take “weeks” to clear the build up of ships that have accumulated waiting for Ever Given to set sail once again saying : “We currently expects a delay of at least 10 days to 2 weeks for all vessels reaching Suez henceforth.”