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Even after Suez Canal is cleared, ending backlog of will take time

Shipping analysts estimated the colossal traffic jam was holding up nearly $10 billion in trade every day.

March 29, 2021 / 02:41 PM IST
It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the Ever Given to become wedged on March 23. GAC, a global shipping and logistics company, said the ship had experienced a blackout without elaborating. Evergreen Marine Corp., a major Taiwan-based shipping company that operates the ship, said in a statement that the Ever Given had been overcome by strong winds as it entered the canal from the Red Sea, but that none of its containers had sunk. The Suez Canal Authority also blamed bad weather for the incident. (Image: AP)

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the Ever Given to become wedged on March 23. GAC, a global shipping and logistics company, said the ship had experienced a blackout without elaborating. Evergreen Marine Corp., a major Taiwan-based shipping company that operates the ship, said in a statement that the Ever Given had been overcome by strong winds as it entered the canal from the Red Sea, but that none of its containers had sunk. The Suez Canal Authority also blamed bad weather for the incident. (Image: AP)

Marc Santora and Vivian Yee

With hopes rising that the partial re-floating of the Ever Given means the Suez Canal will soon reopen for business, shipping analysts cautioned that it will take time — perhaps days — for the hundreds of ships now waiting for passage to continue their journeys.

Shipping analysts estimated the colossal traffic jam was holding up nearly $10 billion in trade every day.

“All global retail trade moves in containers, or 90% of it,” said Alan Murphy, the founder of Sea-Intelligence, a maritime data and analysis firm. “Name any brand name, and they will be stuck on one of those vessels.”

The Syrian government said over the weekend that it will begin rationing the use of fuel after the closure of the Suez Canal delayed the delivery of a critical shipment of oil to the war-torn nation.

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And in Lebanon, which in recent months has suffered blackouts amid an economic and political crisis, local media were reporting that the country’s shaky fuel supply risks further disruption if the blockage continues.

With the backlog of ships now stuck outside the canal growing to more than 300 on Sunday, the threat to the oil supplies in those two countries was an early indication of how quickly the disruption to the smooth functioning of global trade could ripple outward and cause real world pain.

Virtually every container ship making the journey from factories in Asia to consumer markets in Europe passes through the channel. So do tankers laden with oil and natural gas.

The shutdown of the canal is affecting as much as 15% of the world’s container shipping capacity, according to Moody’s Investor Service, leading to delays at ports around the globe. Tankers carrying 9.8 million barrels of crude, about a tenth of a day’s global consumption, are now waiting to enter the canal, estimates Kpler, a firm that tracks petroleum shipping.

The Syrian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources said the blockage of the canal had “hindered the oil supplies to Syria and delayed arrival of a tanker carrying oil and oil derivations to Syria.”

Rationing was needed, the ministry said in a statement, “in order to guarantee the continued supply of basic services to Syrians such as bakeries, hospitals, water stations, communication centers, and other vital institutions.”

c.2021 The New York Times Company
New York Times
first published: Mar 29, 2021 02:41 pm

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