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Everybody wants to talk — or laugh — about Suez Canal crisis

Ever Given remains stuck and canal traffic remains stalled but social media flooded with speculation and sight gags

About 10 tugboats are being employed to help free the grounded Ever Given in the Suez Canal. (Photo: Suez Canal Authority)

Everybody has an opinion — and social media allows for those opinions to be shared globally and instantly. In the case of the Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal, there has been a flood of conjecture, lampoons and memes. (Yeah, we’ve seen the one with Austin Powers many times. Please don’t share it with us again.)

Apparently, the folks at the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) are seeing them as well. The SCA, of course, has its hands full trying to get the massive Ever Given, with a carrying capacity of 20,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), unstuck and begin to clear out the backlog of ships waiting to transit the roughly 119-mile-long canal. That traffic jam has grown to more than 230 ships, according to the BBC on Friday.   

In an update on its website the same day, the SCA said it appreciated “offers of international aid in the floatation” of the Ever Given. It specifically identified the United States, which it said had offered “to contribute to these efforts,” although the SCA did not say how.

A satellite image shows the Ever Given blocking the Suez Canal in Egypt. (Satellite image courtesy of BlackSky)

“Furthermore, the SCA expressed sincere gratitude for all the offers it received for assistance in this regard, while also highlighting the ongoing efforts towards refloating the container ship and affirming its keenness on ensuring regular global maritime traffic in the Suez Canal as soon as possible,” it added.

In other words, the SCA’s email inbox is full. American Shipper’s inboxes also are full, with offers to provide commentary on the Suez Canal crisis pouring in.

“[Mr. X] is available to provide further insight on the maritime traffic jam that is blocking one of the world’s most important shipping lanes after a massive cargo ship got stuck sideways across Egypt’s Suez Canal,” one said. “[He] can discuss the enormous impact this event will have on continued supply chain operations, how this could happen, who it will affect most and the long-term consequences this traffic jam will have.”

Yet another offered insight on the “impact of sandstorms on ultra large container vessels; what other contributing factors were present just prior to grounding; what error chain was in place leading up to this serious marine casualty”; and the challenges of navigating the Suez Canal.

Everybody, it seems, wants to weigh in — a sure sign that this is no garden-variety issue. And you thought shipping accidents would never be fodder for late-night talk show hosts. Or bets — MyBookie has unveiled odds for whether the Ever Given will be dislodged before or after April 5. 

Meanwhile, the challenge remains the same: freeing the Ever Given, which is still wedged between the banks of the Suez Canal at about the 93-mile mark. 

Leth Agencies, a ship and offshore agency in Egypt, said in an update Friday that about “10 tugboats and two dredger vessels are involved in the operation, working around the clock to refloat the vessel. Additional machinery and equipment on the banks are doing their part to assist.”

Leth said three vessels behind the Ever Given on Thursday “were assisted out of the canal, bringing them back to Port Suez anchorage. The canal is thus clear and ready to escort the MV Ever Given out of the canal once she has been successfully refloated.”

No time estimate for the refloating has been given, and shipping lines may be forced to divert away from the Suez Canal and travel around the Cape of Good Hope instead. That adds about 15 days to a voyage from the Middle East to Europe.

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), the technical manager of the Evergreen Marine vessel, said Friday a team from Smit Salvage was at the scene of the grounding to work with the SCA.

“The focus now is on dredging to remove sand and mud around the port side of the vessel’s bow,” BSM said in a statement on its website Friday. “In addition to the dredgers already on site, a specialized suction dredger is now with the vessel.”

BSM said that dredger “can shift 2,000 cubic meters of material every hour.”

All 25 crew members remain on board the Ever Given, BSM said. “The crew are working closely with all parties involved to refloat the vessel. The hard work and tireless professionalism of the master and crew is greatly appreciated.”

Strong winds, not crew error, are being blamed for the Ever Given’s grounding. 

Despite the amusing videos of toys and dogs trying to dig out the Ever Given, the situation in the Suez Canal is anything but funny and has huge implications for global trade. It’s estimated that $12 billion worth of goods is sitting on ships blocked from transiting the canal.

Fifty ships on average use the canal between the Red and Mediterranean seas each day. Traffic in both directions has been stalled since about 6 a.m. in Egypt on Tuesday

The Ever Given was en route to the Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Scores of container ships waiting to transit Suez Canal

Evergreen container ship blocks Suez Canal traffic

Eureka, another container ship en route to Long Beach, delayed

Click for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

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Kim Link Wills

Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills has written about everything from agriculture as a reporter for Illinois Agri-News to zoology as editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Her work has garnered awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Prior to serving as managing editor of American Shipper, Kim spent more than four years with XPO Logistics.