The Suez Canal Blockage and the Risks of Shipping Bottlenecks

MIN READMar 26, 2021 | 18:01 GMT

A view from a tugboat as it tries to dislodge the cargo ship Ever Given from the Suez Canal in Egypt.

(Suez Canal Authority/Handout/AFP via Getty Images)

Even after the ship blocking the Suez Canal is eventually dislodged, the congestion impacts will ripple through global supply chains for several weeks, underscoring the ever-present risk associated with transiting large amounts of global trade through a small number of key bottlenecks. On the morning of March 23, the Ever Given -- one of the world’s largest class of container ships, with space for over 20,000 containers -- became lodged across the width of one of the world’s busiest maritime trade routes, the Suez Canal. A combination of high wind and relatively low water levels appear to be what grounded the mega-ship, which, as of March 26, remains stuck in the Egyptian waterway, with estimates ranging from days to weeks for when it will be freed. The blockage has since shut down traffic in both directions, leaving more than 200 other ships stuck in and around the Suez Canal.  ...

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