NO: DELENG / 2017 / 70663
official media partner of national maritime foundation
By Sea and Coast | 04/04/2021

The shipping world halted when a gigantic 400 meter (1300 feet), 2 lakh tonne cargo ship jammed one of the world’s busiest trade routes Suez Canal waterway for almost a week. Let us know why SUEZ CANAL Blockade was declared a global crisis when the MT EVER GIVEN from a Taiwanese transport company EVERGREEN ships wedged diagonally across the southern section of the canal and disrupted the global supply chain blocking the 120 miles (193 kilometers) long waterway. To have a more clear picture of the ruckus MT EVER GIVEN brought to the global trade by running aground on 23 March 2021, at 07:40 EGY  (05:40 UTC), let us know how a man-made marvel connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea acts as the backbone to the shipping industry.

  • About 12% of the global trade and 8% of liquefied natural gas occur through the Suez Canal.
  • As per Lloyd’s register, goods worth $9.6 billion pass through the canal.
  • On an average day, 50 ships make their way through the Suez Canal carrying approximately 1.2 million tons of cargo. 2020 witnessed 18,500 ships traversing through the canal, with an average of 51.5 ships per day.
  • Acts as national pride and crucial revenue for Egypt.
  • An average of 3 million tonnes of cargo passes through this waterway.
  • Lloyd mentions that about 1.9 million barrels of oil a day go through the canal.

However, the above big numbers are due to the fact that it produces a significantly efficient and the shortest trade route between Europe and Asia. When we analyze the two different alternative trade routes from Port of Rotterdam to Kaohsiug, Taiwan, we get the following figures:

  1. Trade route through Suez Canal- 10000 nautical miles (around 18,520 Km)
  2. Trade route around Cape of Good Hope- 13500 nautical miles (around 25,002 Km)

This difference of 7000 kilometers is surely a figure high enough to impact the efficiency and the time-frame of the global supply chain drastically.


The world’s (shipping) center of the discussion revolved around a ship longer than Eiffel Tower MT EVER GIVEN when it blocked one of the world’s most critical shipping arteries. There were a lot of vague opinions and solutions doing rounds on social media. As per the BrandMentions reports, a brand monitoring firm; there were close to 150,000 interactions on #SuezBLOCKED on Twitter and more than 135,000 reshares.


However, it was made clear from the shipowners that no human error was to be held responsible but it was a ‘gust of wind’ to be declared accountable for the incident. The ship while traveling through the Suez on 23 March, at 07:40 EGY (05:40 UTC) was caught in the strong winds approaching with a speed of 40 knots (74 km/h; 46 mph), which thereafter resulted in the ‘loss of the ability to steer the ship’. But the Suez Canal Authority opinionated that it was not only the gust of wind to be held responsible for the stranded ship. Two tugs were deployed in efforts to refloat the ship soon after the mishap. Further, more rescue and tug units were pushed at the spot to ease the bottle neck. Moreover, Egypt also reopened the older channe to restrict the situation from worsening. Vessels carrying cattle to cargoes started piling up on the both sides of the giant box ships. Blunt solutions were also stocking up, some appealed calling Iron man, some demanded flying ship, and some expected Lord Hanuman to do the needful, but sadly none of them worked except a team of dredgers and a flotilla of tug boats. 

The salvage team from Dutch firm Smit Salvage was engaged immediately to pull the aground ship which ran deep inside the sandy bank. The time pressure to dislodge the ship from the sandy shoreline was evident and unprecedented as daily global trade worth $10 billion was held up by the blockage and cost around $400million an hour, as stated by Lloyd’s list.


By 25th March, eight tug boats were at the spot to ease the global supply chain crisis. This number spiked to 14 on the 27th of March to take advantage of the day’s high tide. In the due course, many firms estimated the operation to be more than a fortnight, some including U.S. Navy extended support while some put in technical advisories and experts at the work


In the efforts to refloat the ship, salvage teams shoveled 30,000 cubic meters (1 million cubic feet) of sand and even removed the part of the canal wall. However, the saga to dislodge the stuck ship almost went a week long.


After tiring efforts by the salvage team equipped with dredgers and tug boats, it was reported by SCA at the dawn of Monday on 29th March that the team succeeded in partially refloating the ship. The vessel was finally freed and moving again as of 15:05 local time, and was towed to the Great Bitter Lake for inspection. The whole operation had the two dredgers namely the 10th of Ramadan and the Mashhour, both owned by the Suez Canal Authority as the backbone. The Mashhour is reported to be the largest and most powerful cutter suction dredger in the world. It was used to widen and deepen sections of the Suez Canal in previous operations.

 “Egyptians have succeeded in ending the crisis,” Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi wrote on Facebook “despite the massive technical complexity.”

In the video posted by Anas Alhajji, the crew members of Mashhour celebrated their success and chanted, “Mashhour is number 1.”

“The Egyptian Team of the Tug boat Mashhour (pronounced mash- hoor) celebrates the success of freeing the #EverGiven after it got stuck in the Suez Canal. They are chanting: Mashhour is number 1,” Anas Alhajji said in the caption of the post.



"We were enormously helped by the strong tide, the forces of nature that push hard, even harder than the two tugboats can pull," Peter Berdowski, Chief Executive Officer of Boskalis Westminster, the parent company of the salvage team told Dutch radio. Looking at the efforts made by the salvage team, torrents of comments on these kinds of posts demanded a documentary on the same in order to praise the team and crew members of tugboats for the operation.



By the time, #SUEZUnblocked around 420 ships carrying oil to livestock were waiting, approximately 200 in the Red Sea, under 200 in the Mediterranean Sea; and around 50 in the Bitter Lakes. Moreover, Osama Rabei on 29th March 2021, the head of the Suez Canal Authority, said that 113 out of 420 vessels would cross the canal by Tuesday(30th March 2021)  morning.

Looking at the traffic Charlotte Cook, a head trade analyst at VesselsValue commented "This means that despite a successful operation to move the grounded vessel, we could still be looking at a possible five- to seven-day wait for the buildup to clear.” While SCA announced that it would take 2-3 days to resume normal transit.


Though the Suez Crisis was recovered, its impact is to be felt over the coming months as forecasted by various maritime experts and professionals. Being aware of the outcomes of this temporary closure, stakeholders should keep patience as everyone is concerned about their crew and cargo, claims IMO Secretary-General , Kitack Lim. Further IMO will look into the investigation reports and entertain appropriate recommendations if any.

Though the Suez Crisis has been recovered, the impact of the ship blocking the Suez Canal will be felt for months to come, Captain Andrew Kinsey, Senior Marine Risk Manager at Allianz announced."With these vessels, they're carrying cargo, and they're also carrying empty boxes on a backhaul to redistribute the global supply of containers," Kinsey, said on CNBC's "The News with Shepard Smith."


Experts are of opinion that the Suez situation would compound issues for a supply chain that is already under pressure from the pandemic and a surge in buying. “If you get a bump in one place, that is going to percolate through the system,” said Mr. Sharat Ganapati, an economics professor at Georgetown University. “It is going to take a while to get things un-gummed up.”, he further added. Moreover, Maersk, the world's biggest shipping company, said that the blockage by the giant container ship Ever Given has caused shipping backlogs that could take months to unravel.


Though the event has introduced a bubble in the supply chain that would last in months yet it has aptly brought out the vitality seafarers possess in the global supply chain and trade. This was surely great learning to maritime industry disguised as #SuezCrisis.

Seeking inspiration from Anne Frank’s quote

“What is done cannot be undone, but at least one can keep it from happening again.”, we shall move ahead with more tight-knit supply chain and technical preparedness for anything by our side.

#Sea and coast