Trouble in the Suez

Billy Joel probably had no idea that 32 years after his epic hit, We Didn’t Start the Fire, there would be another Suez crisis. Maybe it’s time for a revamp, Billy!

The first Suez crisis began in October of 1956 when Israeli forces pushed into Egypt towards the Suez Canal after Egyptian president Nasser nationalized the canal, a valuable waterway that controlled two-thirds of the oil used by Europe. 

The Israelis were soon joined by French and British forces, which nearly brought the Soviet Union into the conflict and damaged their relationships with the United States. In the end, Egypt emerged victorious, and the British, French, and Israeli governments withdrew their troops in late 1956 and early 1957.

Now, more than 6 decades later, a new crisis has developed in the Suez Canal, and this time, an unlikely source is at fault. 

The Ever Given, a 224,000 ton, 1,300-foot long container ship is the culprit. The massive vessel, which is comparable in size to the Empire State Building, was making its way from China to the Netherlands when it ran aground during a sand-storm that caused low visibility last Tuesday, March 22. 

Since then, with engineers unable to free the ship, traffic in the Suez has been massively backed up.

 

The Suez canal is one of the world’s busiest trade routes and provides the shortest maritime link for goods traveling from Asia to Europe by connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. 

Nearly $10 billion worth of goods travel through the Suez every day. 

The consequences of Ever Given’s blockage of the canal have been felt worldwide. 

The United States is likely to have less of a direct impact, however imports from Europe may be delayed and the blockage will prevent empty shipping containers from being returned to Asia, adding a container shortage caused by rising demand for consumer goods during the pandemic. 

However, the Suez situation could compound issues for a supply chain already under pressure from the pandemic, as virus-related restrictions have trapped crews on merchant ships, congested ports have led to container ships anchoring off the California coast, unable to dock and unload their goods, and shortages of semiconductors and rare-earth elements have halted manufacturing of cars and other products.

Oil prices jumped Friday on mounting concerns that it could take weeks to free the Ever Given from the canal. However, prices were still headed for a third consecutive weekly loss, with the outlook for demand somewhat dented by new coronavirus lockdowns across Europe.

Egyptian authorities said today, March 29, that engineers have successfully started to refloat Ever Given and have freed it from the shoreline. 

The engineers, who have been trying for days to pull the fully laden vessel with tugboats, are expected to resume their efforts when water levels rise to a maximum, allowing the ship’s course to be completely straightened.