Tea, IKEA furniture, parquet strips, but also 130,000 sheep and Iranian oil bound for Syria: more than 360 ships and their cargo are stranded at the ends or in the waiting areas of the Suez Canal.
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On the MarineTraffic maritime traffic monitoring site, hundreds of small colored dots representing boats accumulate on Sunday off Port Said, in the Mediterranean Sea, in the lakes that punctuate the Suez Canal and which even form a line in the Gulf of Suez leading to the Red Sea.
The canal, which sees about 10% of maritime trade, has been blocked since Tuesday by theEver Given, a vessel with a capacity of 20,000 containers and 220,000 tonnes, operated by the Taiwanese shipowner Evergreen, which causes significant delays in the deliveries of certain goods.
The total value of the affected property differs according to estimates: from $ 3 billion, according to Jonathan Owens, an expert at Salford University, to $ 9.6 billion, according to Lloyd’s List, a British journal on maritime transport.
Only 1.74 million barrels pass through the canal every day, with 80% of the Gulf’s oil destined for Europe passing through the Sumed pipeline, which crosses Egypt, according to Paola Rodriguez Masiu of Rystad Energy.
According to MarineTraffic, a hundred boats containing petroleum or petroleum products were located in the waiting areas on Sunday. In response to the lockdown, black gold prices rose over the weekend, although the rise is expected to be limited.
According to experts, stocks are sufficient and other sources of supply exist.
But for Syria at war, under international sanctions, the blockade delayed a shipment of various petroleum products from Iran, its ally also under sanctions. Already struggling with shortages, Damascus announced new rationing on Saturday.
The uncertainty as to the time required to refloat the ship raises the question of supplying the crews, but also the livestock.
Eleven ships from Romania carrying 130,000 sheep are affected.
“The situation is critical and risks becoming an unprecedented maritime tragedy involving live animals,” warned the Animals International organization. Egypt sent fodder and three veterinary teams to examine the animals.
Jordan said it was waiting for sheep and calves – among other goods – stranded on boats.
Swedish furniture giant IKEA said it has around 110 containers on theEver Given and others on stuck ships.
This is “an additional constraint on top of an already trying and volatile situation for supply chains, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic,” a spokesperson told AFP.
Rotterdam-based tea trader Van Rees Group laments the blockage of 80 tea containers on 15 ships. The company foresees a “chaos”, with “significant consequences […], because the supply is stagnating ”.
“I told one of my clients that his floor was blocking the Suez Canal, he didn’t believe me,” the boss of a British timber company told the BBC on Saturday. A shipment of French oak floorboards conditioned in China is on theEver Given.
Several shipping giants, such as the Danish shipowner Maersk or the French CMA CGM, have diverted some of their ships via the Cape of Good Hope – a detour that can represent 9,000 kilometers around the African continent, or at least seven additional days – , but ships continue to arrive near the canal.
In 2020, Suez saw an average of 51.5 vessels per day.
According to Maersk, it would take between “three to six days” to get through all the boats that were stranded on Saturday.
By the end of the weekend, 32 of the world’s number one ships and its partners will be affected, 15 diverted, and that number could increase if the bailout of theEver Given tardy, Maersk said.
According to Lloyd’s List, some 90% of cargoes are not insured in the event of delay.