Maersk made the grim assessment as the Evergreen-operated Ever Given was finally refloated and towed out of the way, reopening the vital waterway that was blocked for six days.
Underscoring the intense pressure facing European ports, the port of Rotterdam said 60 of the vessels that were held up by the Ever Given blockage were heading to Europe's largest container port, seven of which were already on the way.
Maersk said the delays already incurred by the blocked canal, the slow vessel-clearing now under way, and the expected congestion as ships converged on European ports would severely restrict its available capacity.
'We are doing our utmost to mitigate the impact and contingency plans are still being made, but [we expect] the loss of capacity to be 20 to 30 per cent over multiple weeks, depending on market dynamics,' Maersk said in an update following the reopening of the canal.
The carrier has warned that in addition to the significant impact on its capacity, it expects severe European port congestion as ships arrive out of their allotted time. That will force Maersk to adjust rotations to limit the overall net loss of ocean network capacity.
Mediterranean Shipping Co said in a statement late Tuesday that three dozen vessels carrying cargo for MSC customers 'are impacted in the Suez Canal area, or en route to the waterway.' The vessels included ships in the carrier's fleet and those part of the 2M Alliance with Maersk.
MSC also said another eight Maersk vessels in the 2M Alliance have diverted around the Cape of Good Hope, joining seven vessels whose diversion around southern Africa was announced last week.
From a global perspective, Sea-Intelligence Maritime Analysis noted in its latest weekly newsletter that the Suez blockage would absorb an amount of carrying capacity equal to 6 per cent of the globally available container vessel capacity. The analyst said 6 per cent of the global fleet represented 1.48 million TEU of capacity, or the equivalent of 74 ultra-large 20,000 TEU container vessels.