CAIRO: More than 10 percent of global trade was at a standstill on Wednesday after a giant container ship ran aground in the Suez Canal and blocked the waterway.
Eight tug boats worked all day trying to free the 400-meter, 224,000-ton Ever Given, a Taiwan-owned vessel carrying cargo from Yantian in China to Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
The Ever Given, one of the world’s largest container ships, ran aground early on Tuesday after its crew lost the ability to steer amid high winds and a dust storm. The ship was stuck at a diagonal angle across the southernmost stretch of the waterway, between the Great Bitter Lake and the Red Sea port of Suez, with other vessels unable to pass.
Tracker maps showed at least 30 ships blocked to the north of the Ever Given, and three to the south. Several dozen ships were also grouped around the northern and southern entrances to the canal, where more than 50 vessels a day, nearly 19,000 a year, normally pass through.
Vessels carrying crude oil, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and retail goods were unable to sail through the canal on Wednesday, potentially disrupting supplies to global markets.
Oil analytics firm Vortexa said 10 tankers carrying 13 million barrels of crude could be affected. Oil prices rose more than 2 percent. Five LNG tankers were blocked, according to data intelligence firm Kpler. Of the five, three were bound for Asia and two for Europe, said Kpler analyst Rebecca Chia. She said that if the congestion persisted until the end of this week, it would affect the transit of 15 LNG tankers.
“It increases the risk that we might see additional port congestion in European ports in the next week,” said Lars Jensen, chief executive at SeaIntelligence Consulting.
About 30 percent of global container ship traffic and 12 percent of world trade by volume passes through the canal each day, carrying everything from fuel to consumer goods, and it is a major source of hard currency for Egypt. The main alternative route for ships traveling between Asia and Europe, around the African cape, takes a week longer to navigate.
Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, said the authority was trying to keep traffic flowing between waiting areas as best it could while refloating efforts continued. “Once we get this boat out, then that’s it, things will go back to normal. God willing, we’ll be done today,” he said.
The authority said it was trying to rebalance the ship, and efforts could shift toward digging the vessel out if the tug boats were unable to release it.