Update, 12:30pm 3/29/21: The boat stuck in the Suez Canal has now become unstuck. There’s no telling when we, collectively, will be free from this experience, though.
Egypt’s Suez Canal — one of the world’s busiest and most important waterways — is currently blocked, thanks to a massive, 224,000-ton container ship called the Ever Given. The vessel became lodged in the canal on Tuesday, causing a large-scale traffic jam and clogging almost the entire width of the passageway.
The canal, which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean and provides an essential passageway between Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, is responsible for transporting around 12% of all global trade. According to The New York Times, tankers with about 10% of a day’s total global oil consumption are now stuck, causing a 4% spike in oil prices.
The Ever Given, which is 59 meters wide and 400 meters long, was en route to the Netherlands when it got stuck. The ship entered the trade passage on Tuesday, and according to Suez Canal Authority spokesman George Safwat, a sandstorm in northern Egypt caused high winds and “an inability to direct the ship.”
But even once the Ever Given is dislodged, it will take a while for traffic to resume and global trade to recover. “At present, the number of ships waiting could reach 100, which will increase over time,” an Egyptian official told CNN. “The disruption of navigation is expected to cause ship congestion, which takes two to three days to normally restore traffic order.”
Although strategists worry this could have a negative impact on the oil economy and movement of consumer goods, everyone on the Ever Given (and the nearby vessels) is reportedly safe. Eight tugboats are trying to free the vessel from the canal, which has proven difficult given its size. A front-end loader is also trying to dig the ship out from where it’s wedged into a sandbank.
As many have mused, the blockage of the vulnerable, narrow Suez Canal and its ensuing domino effects feel pretty representative of everything we’ve gone through this past year. Trying to keep everyone healthy and safe, spirits high, and the world afloat during a global pandemic has been a little bit like trying to dig a 200,000-ton ship out of a sandbank and push it through a very thin passage. It’s time to think bigger.
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