What happened at the Suez Canal? No, we’re not talking about the Suez Crisis of 1956

Sure, you’ve made mistakes, but have you ever made a mistake so big it blocks an international trade artery?

Suez Canal blockade fail
Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash

While we were busy “celebrating” the one-year lockdown anniversary (presumably by crying into a tub of ice cream, stress baking, or watching Netflix in our pjs), all the way across Europe, at the passage between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, a 400-metre ‘megaship’ was committing a mega fail. 

Where is the Suez Canal?

Let’s start with the basics before we dive into what happened. (It’s fine, we had to Google it as well.) In a nutshell, the Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean with the Red Sea, which is pretty nifty for trade vessels from around the world who are nipping between Europe, Asia and the Middle East. 

As the BBC aptly puts it, it’s “an artery of world trade” whose next best alternative is a passage going all the way around the Cape of Good Hope (that’s at the southern edge of Africa!). It’s a pretty busy spot as well – The Guardian reports that according to Egyptian government statistics, approximately 50 ships a day passed through the lane there in 2019. 

Great canal you’ve got there. Shame if something were to… happen to it…

What happened at the Suez Canal?

The technical manager of the ship Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) relayed that the 220,000-ton, 400-metre-long Ever Given “ran aground” (or “got stuck”, for those of us who are not boat nerds) near the southern end of the Canal at about 05:40 GMT on Tuesday. This sudden loss of ability to steer was caused by high winds and a dust storm, claim the Suez Canal Authority. Unlucky.

Now keep in mind, this is one of the largest container ships in the world we’re talking about. So by this morning, unsurprisingly, the megaship had gathered quite a crowd of tankers at the entrance of the Canal, waiting for it to budge so they could be on their way. 

Why is this a big deal? 

Besides this being extremely awkward purely based on the road (sea?) rage this had caused everyone in charge of cargo ships along the route, the Suez Canal mishap is bad news for international trade timelines. Lars Jensen, the chief executive at SeaIntelligence Consulting, told The Guardian that arrival times will be pushed back, causing congestion at various destination ports around the world.

How’s the unblocking going?

In their coverage of this phenomenal flounder, The Telegraph announced: “Wednesday dawned with frantic measures to dislodge the ship.” Talk about #humpday, huh? Apparently, thanks to the combined efforts of eight tugboats, the vessel has now been partially refloated. Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities have also reopened an older Suez Canal channel to divert traffic until the Ever Given is in ship-shape again. 

There are also no injuries or oil leaks reported, so hopefully it would be smooth sailing again soon. But really, can the helmsman ever live down the shame? We leave you with this tweet from @nameshiv: