The Suez Canal: 30% of all goods traded worldwide travel through this passage, a naval bridge between the cultures and goods of the East and the West. Located in Egypt, this 193 km man made waterway is essential to trade because it connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. Generally, issues in the Suez Canal negatively impact global trade by billions upon billions of dollars.
On March 23, 40 knot winds blew across the 205 meter canal, sending strands of sand twisting into the air. Despite the low visibility and poor conditions, the cargo ships that power global trade persevered. Small cargo ships slid their way through the canal at slow speeds. However, at the peak of the sandstorm, the Ever Given, a container ship with a length to rival the height of the Empire State Building, entered the Suez Canal. Due to poor visibility, the Ever Given headed straight for shore as the 1300 ft ship navigated its way to disaster. Just a few minutes after this misstep the Ever Given had run aground, halting the transfer of goods and slowing the pace of global trade.
Since this catastrophic moment, ships have been working to remove enormous amounts of sand from the port side of the Ever Given’s bow. The Ever Given’s release quickly proved to be one of the toughest challenges the Suez Canal has ever faced, as the ship weighs 224,000 tons. The 20,000 containers aboard the Ever Given also made this process extremely difficult. By adding to the overall weight of the ship, these containers could have led to a breach in the structural integrity of the ship if they moved too far or too quickly while sand was dug out. This would have led to a crack through the center of the ship, spilling its contents into the Suez Canal. Therefore, strategic movements and digging patterns were key to releasing the Ever Given.
6 Days after running aground, the Ever Given was freed. Through a combination of “around the clock” digging and applied force from tug boats, the once wedged ship was freed on March 29th, 2021. Although Egyptian salvage crews used powerful tugboats and dredgers to move the Ever Given away from shore, one of the main reasons the ship was freed in under a week was that high tides allowed the water level to increase.
Although the enormous ship was finally freed last Monday, the negative impacts caused by this crisis continue to influence global trade today. The cargo that was being carried on the Ever Given was worth millions of U.S. dollars. The Suez Canal crisis caused a delay in the delivery of these products, causing a financial catastrophe. Additionally, the blockage in the Suez Canal led to over 400 vessels being blocked from the canal, which meant that more goods were delayed and a large portion of global trade was stopped. In total, for every day that the Ever Given was stuck in the Suez Canal, approximately 9.6 Billion U.S.D was lost globally. However, as the Suez Canal has started strategically moving the blocked ships in cohorts through the canal over the past couple of days, world trade is beginning to recover from this unprecedented disaster.