Why A Full Moon Might Help The Free The 300 Ship Blockage In The Suez Canal

The Suez Canal remains blocked since Tuesday by the Ever Given stuck sideways in the canal. A full moon might assist in freeing the vessel.

High Winds, Poor Decisions, Pilot Error

High desert winds, poor judgement, and lack of tugboats led to this trade blockage fiasco. As a result, $10 Billion of Global Trade is Off Course.

The forecast for Tuesday, March 23, showed wind gusts of more than 40 miles per hour and sand storms sweeping through northern Egypt. Indeed, such weather is common in the Sinai desert at this time of year.

Ships were starting to form the daily convoy as the gusts picked up. One of the world’s biggest container vessels, the Ever Given, joined it. The decision would reverberate globally within hours.

By 7:40 a.m. local time, the megaship—loaded with containers that would stretch more than 120 kilometers (75 miles) end to end and carrying everything from frozen fish to furniture—was stuck.

Most of the nearly 300 vessels currently awaiting to pass through the backlogged canal likely don’t have perishable goods or delay coverage. That means the vessels remain on hire and the charterers may be responsible for paying for the rates even as they’re stuck in the traffic jam.

No Tugboats, Bad Decisions, Speed, Loading

  • No Tugs: The Ever Given  didn’t employ tug boats, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, while the two slightly smaller container ships immediately ahead did.
  • Poor Visibility: The Rasheeda was among the ships approaching the canal from the southern end. Mindful of the dangers of the coming sandstorm and laden with liquefied natural gas from Qatar, the captain decided not to enter the canal after discussion with other officials at Royal Dutch Shell Plc, which manages the ship
  • Speed: The ship’s last known speed was 13.5 knots at 7:28 a.m., 12 minutes before the grounding, according to Bloomberg data. That would have surpassed the speed limit of about 7.6 knots (8.7 miles an hour) to 8.6 knots that is listed as the maximum speed vessels are “allowed to transit” through the canal, according to the Suez authority’s rules of navigation handbook posted on its website. Captains interviewed for this story said it can pay to increase the speed in the face of a strong wind to maneuver the ship better.
  • Escorts Not Mandatory: The Cosco Galaxy, a container ship marginally smaller than the Ever Given, was immediately ahead and appears to have travelled at a similar speed, though with a tugboat. The one ahead of the Cosco, the Al Nasriyah, also had an escort. The escorts are not mandatory, according to the Suez authority’s rules of navigation, though the authority can require it for ships if they deem it necessary.
  • Cargo Load: A cargo ship with containers stacked high like the Ever Given can be particularly hard to navigate since the ship’s hull and wall of containers can act as a huge sail, said Kinsey, the former captain, who made his last trip through Suez in 2006 . “There’s a very fine line between having enough speed to maneuver and not having too much speed that the air and hydrodynamics become unstable. Any deviation can get real bad real quick because it’s so tight,” said Kinsey.
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