Please, not this again.
Earlier this week, an overnight desert storm hitting the Suez Canal buffeted a massive cargo vessel four football fields long, causing it to run aground and completing blocking one of the world’s most important transportation routes.
Despite massive efforts to dredge the ship free, the canal remains closed, though Egyptian officials hope to resolve the crisis sometime this weekend.
Marine traffic through the Suez Canal remained blocked on Friday for the fourth consecutive day, with dozens of ships stuck at both the north and south entrances to the shortest route between Asia and Africa. Efforts, stuck sideways across the narrow canal since Tuesday, were picking up, and while one of the teams in charge of the operation said it could take weeks, an advisor to Egypt’s president offered a more optimistic time table.
Mohab Mamish, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s advisor on seaports and the former chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, told the AFP news agency on Thursday that navigation through the canal “will resume again within 48-72 hours, maximum.”
Mamish cited his “experience with several rescue operations of this kind” and said he knew “every centimeter of the canal.
We truly wish Mr. Mamish much luck. The route is so critical to the transportation of produce and goods that there are fears there will be toilet paper shortages should the situation continue.
The massive ship blocking the Suez Canal may prove to be a titanic pain in the butt — by reportedly unleashing a toilet paper shortage not seen since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
The owner of the Ever Given, the 200,000-ton behemoth that ran aground this week when high winds turned it sideways, has apologized for the mega-blockage, which is causing a global trade crisis.
But the proverbial s–t could really hit the fan if it triggers another TP crisis, as a flotilla of cargo ships remain stuck behind the huge vessel.
Walter Schalka, CEO of the Brazilian wood pulp company Suzano SA, told Bloomberg News that the firm was struggling to transport the raw material for toilet paper amid the delays.
The Suez bottleneck comes amid existing shipping container shortages sparked by increasing demand in China and a reduction in supplies, the Express reported.
It is being reported that U.S. Navy will send dredging experts there to offer options for freeing the stuck tanker. They may also be dealing with the area’s pirates as well.
And as ships consider rerouting to avoid the blockage, the Navy’s Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain told the Financial Times that several shipping companies have reached out to the Navy about piracy concerns.
The waters off Somalia in East Africa have long been a hotspot for pirates. But threats are growing in West Africa as well. Earlier this month, shipping giant Maersk asked for military help against pirates in the Gulf of Guinea.
The captain clearly had a day so bad that this event is visible via satellite:
Despite the optimistic assessment of the Egyptians, other marine transport professionals fear it will be weeks before the canal clears. Ships are now being rerouted around the Cape of Good Hope.
At least seven tankers carrying liquefied natural gas were diverted, including three steered toward the longer route to Europe via the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa. Another nine tankers were expected to be diverted if the blockage continues into the weekend, an analyst for data intelligence firm Kpler told the Guardian newspaper.
At least four long-range oil tankers with the capacity to haul 75,000 tons of oil were also possibly headed around the Cape of Good Hope, London-based ship brokering firm Braemar ACM told Reuters, adding that shipping rates have nearly doubled this week “as the market starts to price in fewer vessels being available in the region.”
On the ship-tracking service Marine Traffic, several ships could be observed changing course Friday.
Detouring around Africa is likely to add a week or two to most itineraries. It will also mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional fuel costs.
Here’s hoping that the Egyptians resolve this crisis soon, for the sake of their country and the rest of the world.
When you feel stressed at work, take a look at this tiny excavator. The burden of dredging the route between Asia and Europe rests squarely on its shoulders. #EVERGIVEN #suezcanal pic.twitter.com/mCoehqgOxc
— Vsy (@vsy) March 24, 2021
— Perseus 文光 (@Perseus852) March 26, 2021
The former traffic reporter in me couldn’t resist giving you a Suez Canal traffic update… pic.twitter.com/1CssLkQDty
— Jon Hansen (@JonHansenTV) March 26, 2021
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