Mar 29, 2021 - Economy & Business

Massive container ship freed from Suez Canal

A tugboat attempting to refloat the "Ever Given" in the Suez Canal on March 26.
A tugboat attempting to refloat the "Ever Given" in the Suez Canal on March 26. Photo: Samuel Mohsen/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Rescuers fully dislodged the "Ever Given" from the banks of the Suez Canal on Monday, sending the skyscraper-sized container ship on its way after six days of drama that paralyzed the vital shipping route, according to canal authorities.

Why it matters: The massive maritime traffic jam wreaked havoc on global trade and resulted in one of the largest ship salvage operations in modern history.

  • Shippers with containers carrying oil, commodities and consumer goods were forced to reroute around the southern tip of Africa, adding weeks and tens of thousands of dollars of additional costs to their voyages.
  • The Suez blockage was estimated to cost $400 million per hour in delays to goods shipments, according to CNBC.

Context: The ship, one of the largest in the world, ran aground in the canal on March 22 after getting caught in poor visibility and high winds from a sandstorm.

  • The 220,000-ton and quarter-mile-long ship, operated by Taiwan-based Evergreen Marine, had been heading from China to the Netherlands.
  • Dredgers and tug boats were able to partially refloat the ship early on Monday morning, before fully freeing it from the bank hours later.

The big picture: About 30% of global container shipping volumes pass through the canal, which links the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea — a vital connection between European and Asian markets.

  • Maersk, the world's largest container shipping company, said in an advisory on Monday that the six-day blockage has triggered a series of disruptions to global trade that could "take weeks, possibly months, to unravel."
  • The company added that it could take at least six days for its current queue of ships to pass through once the Suez Canal is fully cleared for operations again.

Our thought bubble: The trouble in the Suez — like the pandemic — underscores the fragility of a global economy built on just-in-time shipping.

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