UPDATE, March 30, 2021, 11:02 a.m. EDT: Traffic in the Suez Canal is resuming, according to multiple news reports, as MV Ever Given has been freed from its position across the canal. According to CBC News, it may be more than 10 days before the backlog of ships is cleared.
On Tuesday, March 23, a massive cargo ship became stuck in the Suez Canal near Suez, Egypt.
The Suez Canal is one of the world’s most important shipping waterways. Ships from many countries sail along the canal, carrying massive crates of products. About 12% of the world’s shipped goods, totalling more than a trillion dollars, use the canal.
The ship, MV Ever Given, got stuck in the canal on an angle, its bow (front end) touching one side of the canal and its stern (back end) nearly touching the other. It couldn’t go forward and it can’t go backward.
The ship is blocking the canal and preventing more than 300 other ships, including 16 fuel tankers, from sailing along it.
The Suez Canal provides the world’s largest ships with a shortcut from Asia to Europe, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. The New York Times estimates that because of the blockage, other ships will have to spend up to $32,000 a day in fuel to make a 5,600-kilometre detour around the southern tip of Africa.
On Sunday, more than a dozen tugboats pulled and pushed at Ever Given to get it to budge. They have to be careful so the ship isn’t damaged or pushed off-balance. Divers have been checking the underside of the ship for cracks—so far, so good.
When the tide goes out, it puts stress on the ship; when the tide comes back in, it relieves some of the stress and renews hope that the ship can soon be freed.
Special diggers and cranes are scooping sludge from around the ship’s bow to help free it. Experts are creating computer models to try to figure out what to do.
On Saturday, tugboat drivers blasted their horns to celebrate the fact that the 400-metre-long (1,300-foot) ship finally budged. Only about 30 metres (100 feet), but it was a start.
Ever Given’s operators, Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine, said the ship got into trouble because of a sandstorm and high winds; other experts say human error or a technical problem may also have been factors. The ship is Japanese-owned.
Ever Given is carrying 20,000 huge steel containers filled with products weighing about 203,200 tonnes (224,000 US tons).
Last year, more than 18,800 ships traveled along the Suez Canal, which is 120 miles long and one of the most important waterways in the world for cargo.
THINK AND DISCUSS
According to The Guardian, about 12% of all of the goods shipped in the world travel along the Suez Canal. See what you can find out about what kinds of cargo uses the canal.
Ships are on carefully managed timelines. They have to dock into ports at certain times to be loaded and unloaded. How might the blockage of this important trade route affect the availability—and prices—of products.
Where is the Suez Canal? What do you know about the canal’s construction and history?
High winds along the Suez Canal have long been a hazard for ships’ captains, some of whom practice the journey using a simulator. What do you think the captain (and crew) of Ever Given is doing, thinking and feeling at this time?
Ever Given weighs about 203,200 tonnes. One tonne is equal to 1,000 kilograms. How many kilograms does the ship weigh? What is the difference between a “tonne” and a “US ton”?
Now, you be the journalist! What else do you want to know about Ever Given, the Suez Canal and this situation? How can you find out the answers?
International coverage: News media around the world have covered this story. Find other stories from countries not your own and compare.
CBC News report on the freeing of the massive ship and the economic effects of the delay: https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/cargo-ship-ever-given-suez-canal-stern-salvage-1.5967819
The importance of the Suez Canal (CNN):
This Guardian article explains more about the importance of the Suez Canal: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/mar/26/how-the-suez-canal-blockage-can-seriously-dent-world-trade
The impact of the blockage on world trade (Guardian): https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/mar/26/how-the-suez-canal-blockage-can-seriously-dent-world-trade
CBC article about eight other times ships have had problems in the Suez Canal: https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/suez-canal-ships-delays-history-1.5964551