Last 61 Stranded Ships to Pass as Suez Canal Gets Unclogged after Egypt Refloats the ‘Ever Given’
The last 61 ships out of a total of 422 vessels, which had been stranded after the massive Ever Given container vessel got stuck in the Suez Canal between March 23 and March 29, 2021, are expected to pass on Saturday, April 3, 2021, through the already unclogged crucial waterway, according to the Suez Canal Authority.
A total of 85 ships – meaning the last 61 stranded vessels and 24 newly arrived ones – were expected to pass the Suez Canal from both sides on Saturday, Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), as cited by Reuters.
The Ever Given container vessel was dislodged on Monday, March 29, 2021, after getting stuck the previous Tuesday, and blockading for six days the Suez Canal between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
The “log jam” caused by the giant container ship caused the queuing of a total of 422 other vessels on both sides of the Suez Canal, throwing international maritime trade in disarray.
The 400-meter-long (430-yard) Ever Given is a Golden-class container ship sailing under the flag of Panama. It is owned by a subsidiary of the Japanese shipbuilding company Imabari Shipbuilding, and is operated by shipping company Evergreen Marine (explaining the huge “Evergreen” inscription on its sides) based in Taiwan.
Specialist rescue teams taking almost a week to free the Ever Given container carrier with extensive dredging and repeated tugging operations.
The Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned, Taiwan-operated Ever Given ran aground, and then turned sideways, thus completely blocking the Suez Canal. To make matters worse, the Ever Given incident occurred in a section of the Suez Canal with only one channel – whereas other parts of the length of the canal are paralleled by an older narrower channel which could be used to bypass obstructions.
On Wednesday, March 31, two days after the refloating of the Ever Given, Egypt’s state-run Suez Canal Authority launched an investigation into what had caused the vessel to run aground.
“The investigation is going well and will take two more days, then we will announce the results,” SCA head Osama Rabie told the MBC Masr private TV late on Friday, as cited by Reuters.
The Suez Canal is a sea-level waterway in Egypt, between its main territory in Africa and its Sinai Peninsula, which is part of the continent of Asia. The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, and, by extension, the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean.
It was built between 1859 and 1869 under the leadership of pioneering French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps, back when the region was still under the authority of the Ottoman Empire.
Under the 1888 Convention of Constantinople, an agreement signed by the major world powers of the time, the Suez Canal may be used “in time of war as in time of peace, by every vessel of commerce or of war, without distinction of flag.”
The Suez Canal cuts the distance between the North Atlantic and the Arabian Sea by nearly 9,000 kilometers (5,500 miles). Its northern terminus is Port Said, and southern terminus is at the city of Suez. The canal is a total of 193 kilometers (120 miles) long.
Until 1956, the Suez Canal was operated by a concessionary company owned by mostly French and British shareholders. In July 1956, then Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, leading to the Suez Crisis in October-November 1956, one of the “hottest” points of the Cold War between the West and the former Soviet Union.
Ever since then, the Suez Canal has been operated by Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority. The canal was closed for a period of 8 years, between 1967 and 1975, as a result of the Six-Day-War between Israel on the one side, and Egypt, Syria, and Jordan on the other.
In 2014-2015, the Egyptian government expanded the Suez Canal in order to provide for the passage of the largest cargo vessels, an expansion dubbed the “New Suez Canal”. The expansion project was worth USD 9 billion, and the “New Suez Canal” side channel was officially unveiled in 2016.
In 2020, the Suez Canal was traversed by more than 18,500 vessels, an average of more than 51 vessels per day. According to the International Chamber of Shipping, up to USD 3 billion worth of cargo passes through the Suez Canal on a daily basis.
The stranding of the Ever Given container vessel on March 21, 2021, may have been the most significant blockage of the crucial waterway since the Suez Canal’s reopening in 1975.