The Evergreen Ever Given has been grounded sideways since Tuesday morning, blocking vessels in both directions along the Suez Canal, creating one of the worst shipping jams seen in years and threatening even more chaos, when the grounded vessel, together with those behind it, arrive at their destination.
The 20k TEU Ever Given ran aground diagonally across the single-lane stretch of the southern canal on Tuesday morning, after losing the ability to steer in high winds and, until today, all efforts had failed to dislodge the 400 metre long container ship, with the delays threatening UK port disruption, surcharges and rate rises, and the potential of future blanked vessels, as the lines try to recover their schedules.
UPDATED 29th March: At approx 1500 the Ever Given has been successfully refloated and is being escorted from the grounding site. As soon as the channel is clear, the Canal will reopen, but the backlog of 300+ vessels will take a week to 12 days to clear.
Julianne Cona, an assistant engineer on the 6,200 Maersk Denver, that was directly behind the Ever Given when she ran aground, posted the picture above on Instagram showing the vessel blocking the entire canal, with a digger on the eastern bank attempting to dig the ship free.
With costs of the delay and salvage mounting, insurance sources had suggested that unless Evergreen could reach a ‘commercial agreement’ with the leased-vessel’s owner, it was likely that General Average would be declared and, all the time there was a very real possibility that force majeure might be invoked. Thankfully, with this afternoon’s developments, those fears should ease.
Around 30 vessels from Asia sail through the Suez Canal each week with an average capacity of 380,000 TEU, which is equivalent to 55,000 TEU of cargo arriving in Europe daily, which means we (potentially) already have a 300,000+ TEU spike, and growing.
In addition to the inbound delays, the daily export of thousands of loaded and empty containers back to Asia every day have been interrupted, which is inevitably going to impact the numbers of empty containers available in Asia.
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There have not been many incidents of ultra-large container ships running aground, but when the 19,000 TEU CSCL Indian Ocean ran aground in the Elbe river outside Hamburg in 2016, it took 6 days to get the vessel re-floated and it looks like the Ever Given has been on the same timescale.
Shipping lines have already begun diverting vessels around Africa on Asia-North Europe and Asia-USEC services, adding a week to 12 days to transit and using a lot more fuel.
As of yesterday 300+ vessels were waiting at Suez and while it would typically take 7-12 days to clear the backlog, the Canal is insisting that it will clear waiting vessels much faster.