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Suez still blocked - factors at play in sorting out what's next

THE Suez Canal - the shortcut for Asian producers to European consumers, and increasingly east coast North and South American consumers too, continues to be blocked by the 20,388-TEU Ever Given for the better part of a week

28 March 2021 - 19:00
THE Suez Canal - the shortcut for Asian producers to European consumers, and increasingly east coast North and South American consumers too, continues to be blocked by the 20,388-TEU Ever Given for the better part of a week.

Diggers. dredgers and tugs were working relentlessly with experienced salvagers, reports the Wall Street Journal, adding that hopes are fading for a quick fix.



The ship was blown off course in a sandstorm last week, causing one end of the 400-metre long ship - as long as the Eiffel Tower is tall - to lodge bow and stern into the sand banks on each side of the canal blocking traffic in both directions.



The bow is wedged five metres into the canal's wall, the main obstacles to re-floating. Workers are dredging the bank to enable them to tow the vessel away.



About 12 per cent of global trade goes through the canal, making it so strategic that world powers have fought over the waterway since it was completed in 1869.



Not since the Arab-Israeli wars between 1967-1975 has the canal been so completely blocked, an era that brought the supertanker into existence to ship oil from the Persian Gulf around South Africa's the rest of the Atlantic world.



To refloat the Panamanian-flagged but Taiwanese owned vessel, the owners, Evergreen Marine, have appointed Netherlands (Smit Salvage) and Japan (Nippon Salvage) to dislodge the ship.



'These teams will be working with the captain and the Suez Canal Authority to design an effective plan for refloating the vessel as soon as possible,' said the Evergreen statement.



'Evergreen Line will continue to coordinate with the shipowner and Suez Canal Authority to deal with the situation with the utmost urgency, ensuring the resumption of the voyage as soon as possible and to mitigate the effects of the incident.



'As the vessel is chartered, the responsibility for the expense incurred in the recovery operation; third party liability and the cost of repair (if any) is the owners,' said Evergreen.



Tugs have tried to move the ship in the first 24 hours after grounding. A digger has been trying to free the bow of the ship, while three dredgers have arrived and are working on the port side.



Hopes were expressed that a spring tide on Sunday and Monday will add 46 centimeters in depth enough to shift the fully laden Japanese-built ship.



Meanwhile more vessels, containerships, tankers, ro-ro vessels bulkers, lingering hopefully in the Mediterranean on one side and the Red Sea on the other wait for the blockage to clear.



London's Lloyd's List reckons the blockage delayed westbound traffic is worth around US$5.1 billion a day and eastbound traffic $4.5 billion.



Oil companies now look to book tankers with options to avoid the canal, according to a broker, and several bid for space on the pipelines that allow bypass of the waterway.



Most crude flows from the Mideast Gulf head to eastern destinations, or to western ones by sailing all the way around Africa, and therefore are not directly affected by a Suez disruption.



'Oil can bypass the Suez Canal by pipeline, but it still needs tankers to reach the refineries. If there aren't enough available tankers in the Mediterranean, then some oil might not be delivered on time,' said Clay Siegel, managing director at Vortexa in Houston.



'If today's loaded tankers are significantly late in making deliveries, then they're also going to be late for their next mission. That could be a scheduled delivery in Asia, which today seems safe from Suez canal problems,' he said.


SeaNews Turkey
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