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Container Ship Blocking Suez Canal and Hampering World Trade 'Partially Refloated'

03-29-2021
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In this photo released by the Suez Canal Authority, tug boats and diggers work to free the Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned Ever Given, which is lodged across the Suez Canal, Sunday, March 28, 2021.(Suez Canal Authority via AP)
In this photo released by the Suez Canal Authority, tug boats and diggers work to free the Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned Ever Given, which is lodged across the Suez Canal, Sunday, March 28, 2021.(Suez Canal Authority via AP)

Egyptian officials announced on Monday that the massive container ship blocking the Suez Canal has been “partially refloated.”  The ship has caused huge disruptions in the global economy after blocking the key waterway for a week. 

Ten tugboats, pushing and pulling the stuck ship, along with help from the high tide, managed to partially free the vessel, but there’s no word on when it will be completely freed.

Seven days ago, the skyscraper-sized Ever Given got stuck in the crucial waterway something that’s never happened in the 150-year history of the Suez Canal, one of the most strategic waterways in the world. 

“It carries about 12 percent of world trade each year.  That [is] roughly in monetary terms about 1.1. Trillion dollars-worth of cargo that passes through the Suez Canal, about three billion every day,” said Guy Platten, secretary-general of International Chamber of Shipping.”

“About 18,000 ships use it a year, about 50 ships a day. So, it’s absolutely key and so when you get something like this, a ship actually blocking it, you actually really are blocking that trade flow,” Platten said.

The massive traffic jam is holding up nearly 400 ships, which contain everything from furniture to coffee to car parts.   

The delay is costing companies billions of dollars – a cost they’ll likely pass on to the consumer.

“The fact that now we’re seeing a backlog could have ripple effects here in the US,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. 

It’s also affecting the flow of the world’s crude oil – nearly 10 percent is transported through the canal and that backlog could affect the cost of gas at US pumps. 

“At some point this summer, we could see a national average of $3 a gallon,” De Haan said.

The impact is being felt in Europe since the ship blocked the crucial East-West waterway connecting Europe and Asia.  The alternative route takes vessels nearly two weeks to sail all the way around Africa.    

“Container ships, tankers are not delivering food, fuel, manufactured goods to Europe and goods are not being exported from Europe to the Far East. And this is going to have a massive impact on production, on availability of goods in Europe and in Asia,”  said Salvatore Mercogliano, former marine and Associate Profession of History at North Carolina’s Campbell University.

One expert compared what will happen next to taking a cork out of a bottle.  Once it’s opened, vessels will be arriving at global ports at the same time and will have to wait in line once again. 

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