IN DEPTH: Huge Container Ship Blocks Suez Canal
A massive container ship got stuck in the middle of the Suez Canal on Tuesday, blocking traffic in a very important shipping area. It’s not known how long it will take to free the ship and open the canal again.
What is the Suez Canal?
The Suez Canal is a man-made waterway in Egypt which allows ships to travel between Asia and Europe without going all the way around Africa. The canal is 120 miles (193 kilometers) long and connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.
Using the canal instead of going around Africa can make trips several thousand miles shorter and can save many days of travel. Because of this, thousands of ships use the Suez Canal every year. In 2019, nearly 19,000 ships traveled through the canal.
The canal has been around since the mid-1800s. In 2015, it was made wider so that larger boats and two-way traffic could come through. But it’s still pretty thin – just 224 yards (205 meters) across.
What went wrong?
The container ship Ever Given is 437 yards (400 meters) long. That’s a quarter of a mile (0.4 kilometers) long. It’s one of the largest ships in the world, one of a new kind of ships called “megaships”. The ship is owned by a company called Evergreen Marine, and was on its way to the Netherlands from China.
On Tuesday morning, there was a dust storm in the area, making it hard to see. There were also strong winds. It’s believed that a strong gust of wind blew the Ever Given sideways, jamming its front into the side of the canal. The containers on top of the ship may have acted like a sail, making the boat easier to push.
The ship, unable to move, has been blocking all the other ships in the canal. Normally, over 50 ships go through the canal in a day. Over 100 ships are now stuck, waiting to go through the canal.
What’s the rescue plan?
A company called GAC which works on the canal says that the Ever Given has now been partly freed, and has been moved to the side of the canal. The plan is to move it to another part of the canal so that other ships can pass.
There are several boats in the canal trying to tow the megaship, and there are also large machines helping out from the shore. But the Ever Given weighs about 485 million pounds (220 million kilograms). Getting it to move isn’t easy.
If the Ever Given can’t be moved soon, it’s possible that many of its containers will need to be unloaded to lighten the ship. If this happens, the delays in opening up the canal will be even longer.
Even if the Ever Given is moved soon, it’s expected that it could take days or weeks for the situation to be straightened out.
That’s because the delays in the canal will also affect boats that aren’t in the area yet. It will also affect the planned unloading times for those ships around the world. It could even affect the prices of some products, such as oil.