What began as an unlikely incident of a large container ship being jammed in the Suez Canal has now becoming a growing disaster.
With some $400 million an hour lost in international trade, according to Lloyd’s List, and some 240 ships now waiting to cross, the blockage is a global problem. The Ever Given became stranded in the canal earlier this week due to high winds.
“Lloyd’s values the canal’s westbound traffic at roughly $5.1 billion a day, and eastbound traffic at around $4.5 billion a day. The blockage is further stressing an already strained supply chain, said Jon Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy for the National Retail Federation,” CNBC notes. Even the usually churlish Iran is nonplussed by the problem. Fars News is fretting that it could take “weeks” to get the ships moving again. And Iran cares because it needs to move oil and other goods illicitly to countries through the canal. We know this because the Shahr E Kord, an Iranian ship that transited the canal earlier this month, was allegedly struck by a mysterious explosion after it left the canal heading to Syria. Israel accused the Iran-linked Emerald ship of causing an oil spill in early February after it crossed the canal in late January.
On Thursday, some 150 ships were already waiting to cross the canal. According to Iranian Fars media crude oil is already rising in prices to some $62 a barrel. "We do not even know how far the operation is going," he said. "Rescue workers are just digging under the bow of the ship, waiting to resume operations in high tide,” said an official linked to the company that owns the ship. Commodity analyst Satura Yoshida said concerns about the supply of basic commodities had increased with the closure of the Suez Canal, raising concerns about meeting demand, Iran’s media says.
Some 39.2 million barrels of oil transit the canal daily. “In addition, 1.54 million barrels of processed oil, including gasoline, pass through the canal, which accounts for a total of 9% of world trade in products by sea,” Fars says. Naval ships also use the canal. This means the strategic trade route is suffering a major disruption.
Days ago when the disaster began it was considered a kind of running joke on social media. People tweeted images from Austin Powers and other movies, including Friends, mocking it. Meanwhile the problem has shed light on the importance of groups like Tanker Trackers that provide information on movement of ships.