The news of the cargo ship, Ever Given, blocking the Suez Canal took the focus off COVID-19 for a bit and was certainly a topic of interest around the world, as well as being a focus of many an entertaining meme! While this incident caused a fair bit of trouble, there are also a number of things we can learn. Let’s take a closer look at the Ever Given Suez Canal incident.
The Suez Canal
Before we look at what we can learn from the incident, let’s touch on the Suez Canal and how it fits into the shipping industry. The Suez Canal is a 190-kilometer artificial waterway that was first opened in 1869, linking the Mediterranean with the Red Sea and shipping lanes to Asia. The Canal handles dozens of container ships each day and was expanded in 2015 to allow ships to transit in both directions at the same time, but only in part of the waterway.
Ever Given is a 400-metre-long container ship, also called a megaship, and happens to be one of the largest container ships in the world. The ship blocking the canal was likely due to strong winds that turned the containers above deck and caused the ship to change the direction it was heading in.
Safety & Security on Alternative Routes
Should ships not be able to get through the Suez Canal, the only alternative transit route is the passage around the African continent. Not only is this alternate route much longer, but it is also more dangerous. Piracy, in particular, has been a big concern for merchant ship operators over the past few years, first off the Somali coastline and in the Gulf of Guinea more recently. Some companies have already voiced their concerns when it comes to piracy threats on this route, but more will need to be done to ensure it is safe for ships should the Canal not be accessible.
The Importance of Choke Points
Choke points are narrow, strategic passages that connect two larger areas to one another. In the world of maritime trade, choke points are usually canals or straits that see high volumes of traffic because of their ideal location. The Suez Canal is an important choke point, and without it ships would need to sail around Africa which would add an extra 7 or more days to their trip and put them at risk to piracy. The Egyptian government completed a large expansion project for the Canal in 2015, but after the blockage it is evident that the Suez Canal is still vulnerable to obstruction and further development might be necessary.
While Ever Given has been released, the impact of the blockage will be felt for months according to experts. We’ll keep an eye on this!
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