Tugboats and High Tide Remove Suez Canal Blockage as Trade Resumes

March 30, 2021

Last week, one of the world’s most important commercial waterways shut down as a 200,000-ton vessel became lodged in the Suez Canal. After the enormous ship could not be removed immediately, experts started to worry that Ever Given would remain stuck for weeks and wreak billions of dollars in economic havoc. Then yesterday, the container ship was finally dislodged from the canal with the help of high-powered tugboats and an unusually high tide brought on by a full moon.

Now after a week of waiting, more than 300 vessels are slowly cruising through the 120-mile waterway that connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. While these ships are finally sailing towards their destinations, Ever Given is undergoing close examination by investigators to determine what caused this costly maritime disruption. Inspectors will also assess the extent of the damage done to the canal itself as the skyscraper-sized ship spent a week wedged in the narrow waterway. 

This difficult process will be further complicated by the various international interests associated with Ever Given. The ship is owned by a Japanese firm, operated by a Taiwanese shipping company, registered in Panama, and is currently anchored in Egypt’s Bitter Lake as the investigation continues. “This ship is a multinational conglomeration,” said shipping expert Captain John Konrad. Plenty of companies that faced transportation delays will be looking to sue Ever Given for compensation, but they will likely encounter numerous issues due to the vessel’s globe-spanning affiliations. “We anticipate a detailed investigation will follow which will determine the cause,” said the global legal firm Clyde and Co. ”Evidently the cause will impact upon the legal liabilities of the ship and cargo interests.”

Questions:

  1. Why are investigators currently examining Ever Given after dislodging it from the Suez Canal?
  2. How could Ever Given’s various international affiliations potentially complicate some companies’ abilities to seek compensation for delays caused by the ship?

Sources: Samy Magdy and Jon Gambrell, “With Ship Now Freed, a Probe Into Suez Canal Blockage Begins,” Associated Press, March 30, 2021; Michael Safi and Jon Henley, “How a Full Moon and a ‘Huge Lever’ Helped Free Ever Given From Suez Canal,” The Guardian, March 30, 2021. Photo by NOAA.

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