Port congestion looms the longer the Ever Given is blocking the Suez Canal

The longer the blockage of the Suez Canal by container ship Ever Given lasts, the bigger the impact on international trade and logistics. The association of entrepreneurs evofenedex emphasises that the delay and the growing queues of waiting ships will put a lot of pressure on the handling of these ships’ cargoes at the various terminals in the nortwestern European ports, including the Port of Rotterdam.

Evofenedex explains that nine billion euros worth of goods are transported through the Suez Canal every day. Many of those ships have Rotterdam as their final destination. The refloating of the ship Ever Given, which ran aground in the Suez Canal on Tuesday 23 March, could take days if not weeks, Boskalis CEO Peter Berdowski said on Wednesday.

According to a spokesperson of major Rotterdam container terminal ECT, container transport runs like a ‘kind of bus service’ across the world’s seas. If no ships come in, work in the Port of Rotterdam comes to a standstill. But if a large number of ships suddenly arrive as a result of congestion, the terminal handling system could run into trouble.

If the blockage continues for a long time, shipping companies will have to consider sailing around Africa. This would mean an extra sailing time of more than a week and extra costs and emissions due to fuel consumption.

Also read: Huge container ship blocks Suez Canal

By Suez Canal Port Authority.

Container shipping already impacted by Covid-19

On top of that, since the outbreak of the coronavirus, container liner shipping has already experienced disruptions. Before the problems in the Suez Canal, there was already a shortage of containers, which resulted in sky-high rates. In addition, the reliability of the sailing schedules left something to be desired.

Difficult to assess consequences

The Port of Rotterdam Authority has said it is monitoring the situation and awaits further developments in the Suez Canal. ‘It is a matter of guessing how long it will take,’ said a spokesperson. According to him, global maritime transport is often delayed and the consequences for the port of Rotterdam are difficult to assess at this time.

Maersk has come with a similar statement and cannot yet say what the impact will be for its south and north bound services. The container shipping company currently has seven vessels underway impacted by the Canal blockage, four of which currently within the canal system while the rest are waiting to enter the passage.

Container terminal ECT is investigating the consequences of the congestion of container ships in the Suez Canal. And especially in the area of planning, reports a spokesperson.

Smit and Nippon Salvage

This morning (25 March), a team of Boskalis’ subsidiary Smit Salvage arrived in Egypt to assist in refloating the vessel. The vessel’s charterer Evergreen Line has said a second team of Japanese Nippon Salvage has also been dispatched to assist.

It will not be possible to determine how long the salvage work will take until the proper calculations have been made and it is determined what equipment will be needed to free the vessel, Berdowski said earlier. It will also depend on how fast this equipment, like dredgers, can be brought on site.

Picture (top): In Dutch TV programme Nieuwsuur, Berdowski said the efforts to free the ship so far were a ‘brave attempt’ and this is an example of ‘every little bit helps’. However, he stated freeing the ship would likely take days to weeks as the ship is firmly stuck, much like a ‘beached whale’ (picture by Suez Canal Authority).

Source (in part): ANP

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.