Suez blockage extends as salvors fail to free Ever Given
Market braces for extended Suez Canal blockage as salvors struggle to free the Ever Given and call in bigger dredgers for another attempt at 1400 hrs local time
The queue of traffic waiting to transit the Suez has grown significantly overnight, with over 200 vessels now stuck due to the blockage. Market rates are reacting as owners start to re-route tonnage
THE latest attempt to refloat the grounded Ever Given, currently blocking the Suez Canal, has failed and salvors have warned that the operation may take several days.
The latest attempt to move the fully laden 20,000 teu containership started at 0800 hrs local time, but sources close to the operation have confirmed that the Smit-led team on site will need larger suction dredgers before their next attempt at 1400 hrs begins.
Eight tugs, the largest of them with a towing power of 160 tonnes, have been trying to push and pull Ever Given free of the canal’s banks, the Suez Canal Authority said in a statement.
However, given the multiple failed attempts at high tide points it is looking likely that the vessel will have to be lightened and dug out at the ends, an operation that could add several days to the blockage.
“After 48 hours of proactive efforts to re-float Ever Given, the time chartered vessel’s grounding situation has not been resolved,” conceded Evergreen in its latest statement to the press on the grounding.
The setback comes as over 200 vessels have now joined the queues at either end of the canal awaiting transit and shipowners start to weigh up options of costly rerouting.
Peter Berdowski, chief executive of Dutch company Boskalis, which is trying to free the ship, said it was too early to say how long the job might take.
“We can’t exclude it might take weeks, depending on the situation,” Mr Berdowski told the Dutch television programme Nieuwsuur.
Lloyd’s List Intelligence tracking data indicates that 213 vessels of 16.9m dwt are now stalled at either end of the canal, up from 165 vessels yesterday.
The current traffic awaiting transit include:
• 63 bulk carriers (4.3m dwt) including eight capes and 34 panamax and supramaxes. Two bulk ore carriers
• 28 crude tankers, including four VLCCs and 12 suezmaxes
• 41 boxships, including six of 197,000 dwt-plus (including Ever Given) which puts them in the 20,000 teu category, representing a total 3.5m dwt
• 18 LPG or LNG carriers
• 15 product tankers including three long range two ships. These are likely carrying 90,000-tonne cargoes of jet fuel or diesel to Europe or the Mediterranean.
• 15 vehicle carriers.
About 12% of global trade passes through the 193 km-long (120-mile) canal, which connects the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and provides the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe, which means that the traffic will continue to build until shipowners calculate that rerouting will be necessary.
The cost of delays is increasing by the day, particularly in the container sector where supply chains are already strained.
Around 70-90 containerships would generally be expected to transit the canal weekly and box traffic represents about half the canal’s tonnage.
Containerised goods represent around 26% of total Suez traffic and in value terms, delays will be significant. Rough calculations suggest westbound traffic is worth around $5.1bn daily while eastbound traffic is worth $4.5bn.
While Ever Given (IMO: 9811000) is one of the larger vessels to transit the canal, it is by no means an anomaly.
According to Lloyd’s List Intelligence, there are 150 boxships of 180,000 dwt and over (17,000+ teu capacity), many deployed on Asia -Europe trades. In 2021, 115 transits have been made by vessels this size through the Suez Canal to Europe — 114 of them apparently without incident.
For the oil trades, brokers are now predicting significant diversions to begin imminently.
Rates for long range two, aframax and suezmax tankers in the Mediterranean have already reacted as the market starts to price in fewer vessels being available in the region.
According to Braemar, significant diversions are likely for the LR2s that might have been headed towards the Suez from the Atlantic basin but are now likely to be evaluating a passage around the Cape of Good Hope.
In addition, Brent prices have firmed. The trigger is likely to have been a rising demand for Atlantic basin crudes by the European refiners.
“This will, in our view tighten the aframax and suezmax markets in the west,” said Braemar in its latest research note.
“For VLCCs, rising Brent will hit the west to east crude arbitrage flows. Though this may well be offset by more crude flowing from the Mid-East via the Cape to Europe.”