Suez Canal blocked after large cargo ship turns sideways

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The Suez Canal was initially constructed in 1869, connecting the Mediterranean and Red Seas, and it allows for the shortest possible trade route by water between Europe and Asia.

A waterway crucial to global trade is now blocked by a massive container ship, causing a traffic jam that could last days.

Ultimately, how long the Ever Given remains stuck now depends on how hard aground she is and how favorable the tides are, or aren't (tides on the south end can be range up to 1.9 meters).

The canal has been the site of occasional groundings that have halted shipping.

The ship, wedged at an angle across the waterway, now blocks the path of other container vessels in both directions.

"There was a grounding incident" in the Suez Canal, said Alok Roy, fleet director of BSM Hong Kong, the Ever Given ship manager.

Container ships sail in Suez Canal during the 150th anniversary of the Suez Canal
Container ships sail in Suez Canal during the 150th anniversary of the Suez Canal

Almost 19,000 ships passed through it past year with a total tonnage of 1.17 billion, according to the Suez Canal Authority (SCA). Images widely circulated on Twitter and taken from a container ship behind the Ever Given show what looks like a tiny excavator compared to the massive cargo-laden vessel.

The Suez Canal is one of the world's most important trade routes, providing passage for 10 percent of all worldwide maritime trade. It's 120 miles long, 79 feet deep, and 673 feet wide. In one of the most serious delays, the canal was closed for three days in 2004 after an oil tanker, Tropic Brilliance, got lodged.

A traffic jam along the waterway could have "huge ramifications for global trade", Campbell University maritime history professor Sal Mercogliano told the BBC.

Ever Given, carrying goods from China to Rotterdam, ran aground in the early morning on Tuesday, local time, and tugboats are attempting to refloat the vessel, said Leth Agencies, one of the top providers of Suez Canal crossing services, in a notice to clients. About 12% of global trade, nearly 10% of seaborne oil trade and 8% of global LNG passes through the canal. The ship was finally freed after 25,000 tons of oil was pumped out.

Without it, vessels would have to sail all the way around the continent of Africa to get from Europe to Asia. The pandemic also exacerbated labor abuse in the industry, with thousands of seafarers stuck on vessels beyond the expiration of their contracts and past the requirements of globally accepted safety standards.

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