Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority on Thursday said that it is “temporarily suspending navigation” through one of the world’s busiest waterway until the grounded container vessel MV Ever Given is refloated. The authorities confirmed the development to news agency AFP.
"Maritime authorities said that 13 ships from the northern convoy via Port Said were supposed to pass through but ... remain docked in the transit areas until refloating is complete," the authority's spokesperson George Safwat told the agency.
The development has disrupted global trade severely and Bloomberg reported that the blockage is costing roughly $400 million per hour. While efforts are still on to refloat the massive container ship, experts suggest that it may take some more time.
Authorities are facing difficulties in refloating the ship due to its massive size. It is about a quarter mile long (400 meters) and weighs close to 200,000 metric tonnes. People working to refloat the ship have been quoted in various reports as saying that the mission is overwhelming due to MV Ever Given's sheer size.
The situation is getting worse with every passing hour as the container ship has blocked hundreds of ocean-going carriers that haul everything from oil to consumer goods. It may be noted that around 12 per cent of global trade is associated with the Suez Canal and it is so strategic that world powers have fought over the waterway since it was completed in 1869.
Earlier in the day, news agency Reuters reported that the blockage could lead to a rise in global crude oil prices as many supply consignments are stuck on the waterway.
Nick Sloane, a salvage master responsible for reflecting the Costa Concordia (the cruise ship that capsized on the coast of Italy in 2012), told Bloomberg that the best chance of freeing the ship may not come until Sunday or Monday when the tide will reach a peak.
As the situation stands, further navigation remains suspended till the ship is refloated and experts fear that it could be a major setback for global supply chains that are already strained by the e-commerce boom linked to the pandemic.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The massive ship got stuck in the canal on Wednesday but the incident that triggered it began a day before. On Tuesday, strong winds blasted through the region and kicked up sands along the banks of the 120-mile-long canal, which connects the Mediterranean in the north with the Red Sea in the south.
The waterway is narrow -- less than 675 feet wide (205 meters) in some places -- and can be difficult to navigate when there's poor visibility.
While the container vessel MV Ever Given tried to stay on its course through the canal despite the strong winds, the crew lost control of the ship and it careened sideways into a sandy embankment, blocking the entire canal. All efforts to move the ship have failed.