Shipping companies eye routes around Suez Canal jam

AFP , Thursday 25 Mar 2021

Suez Canal
Workers are seen next to a container ship which was hit by strong wind and ran aground in Suez Canal, Egypt March 24, 2021. Suez Canal Authority. Reuters

Global shipping giant Maersk and Germany's Hapag-Lloyd said Thursday they were looking into options to avoid Egypt's Suez Canal, including going around Africa, as a giant ship continued to block the key waterway.

The MV Ever Given, a 400-metre (1,300-foot) long vessel, ran aground on Tuesday night and is blocking passage through the key trade route, causing congestion of several dozen ships at both ends of the channel.

Salvage experts warned that moving the huge vessel out of the way could take days or weeks.

"We closely follow the refloating operations and are currently looking at all alternatives possible," Concepcion Boo Arias, a spokeswoman for Maersk, told AFP in an email.

One possibility is going around Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa, she said.

The Suez Canal drastically shortens travel between Asia and Europe. The Singapore-Rotterdam route, for example, is 6,000 kilometres (3,700 miles) and up to two weeks shorter via the canal than going around Africa.

Boo Arias said nine Maersk container vessels and two partner vessels "are anchored in the area waiting for the passage to re-open".

The "impact on the global supply chain" would depend on how long "the route remains impassable", she added.

Meanwhile, Hapag-Lloyd reported five of its vessels were affected by the blockage and that it was "presently looking into possible vessel diversions around Cape of Good Hope."

"We don't have any clear indication when the vessel will be refloated again," the Hamburg-based company said in a statement.

According to experts, the canal accounts for around 10 percent of international maritime trade, and in 2020 nearly 19,000 ships used it.

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