The Story of the Blocked Suez Canal

Written by Quinn Bourret (News Writer)

The Suez Canal was blocked for six days, shutting down Eurasian global trade and leaving a lasting and expensive impact. The massive container ship Ever Given, owned by Japanese company Shoei Kisen Kaisha and leased by the Taiwanese Company, Evergreen, was stuck in the Suez canal, making it impossible for other ships to pass through, thereby bringing trade to a halt. Workers would finally detach the ship from the coast with tugboats and use of the tides, but the legacy of the ship lives on, through transportation and legal conflicts over the responsibility of the incident.

Completed in 1869, funded by Egypt and France, the Suez would have massive implications on Eurasian trade. The trade route around the Cape of South Africa, once controlled by the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French, and British trading empires would become largely irrelevant. The Canal significantly reduces shipping time between Europe and Asia; a trip through the canal and the Mediterranean is 8,900 kilometers or 43% less than one around Africa, thereby considerably cutting costs and allowing more goods to be transported over a set period of time. Today, 11% of global trade revolves around the Canal and 30% of all container ships will pass through it. Even the Americas depend on goods created as a result of Eurasian trade.

Despite the Ever Given being freed, it remains in the Suez, in the hands of the Egyptian Government. They are investigating the cause of the crash that resulted in the ship being grounded, as the matter of responsibility is a large, and expensive, issue. $9.6 billion dollars worth of goods were blocked from traveling every day, making the total over $50 billion dollars for the six-day period. Egypt lost an estimated $95 million dollars in tolls over the period. Now they are demanding $900 million dollars at risk of not returning the ship. The charge directed towards Shoei Kisen Kaisha, the owner, rather than Ever given, the operator, is based on the lost toll fees, a holdup in trade, and the cost of removing the ship. There is also the matter of the crew, who have been forced to stay on the ship. All twenty-five members of the crew are from India and the Indian government has expressed worry over them and fears they may be scapegoated over the incident. If the situation continues for long enough, they might become involved.

The Suez authority has warned that a court case would be worse for Shoei Kisen Kaisha as opposed to paying the fine and settling outside of court. The ship has on it $3.5 billion dollars worth of goods, so the fine would not be worth more than the ship. How the situation will turn out remains to be seen.

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