PH shippers face shipment delays with Ever Given still stuck at Suez

Mega ship Ever Given at the Suez Canal. Photo courtesy of the Suez Canal Authority.
  • Shippers, including in the Philippines, should expect shipment delays as efforts to refloat mega ship Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal could take some time
  • Association of International Shipping Lines president Patrick Ronas said global trade will be affected sooner than expected
  • Evergreen said 48 hours of trying to re-float Ever Given has not shown results

Shippers, including in the Philippines especially exporters, should expect shipment delays with efforts to refloat mega ship Ever Given possibly taking weeks.

“The Evergreen ship will take weeks apparently to take out, therefore global trade will be affected sooner than expected,” Association of International Shipping Lines (AISL) president Patrick Ronas told PortCalls in a message.

Ever Given, a container ship almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall, on Tuesday (March 23) ran aground in the Suez Canal after being knocked off course in 40-knot winds and a sandstorm that caused low visibility and poor navigation. The Suez Canal is a vital passageway between east and west.

The 224,000-ton, 20,000-TEU vessel of Taiwan-based shipping line Evergreen Line was en route to Rotterdam Port in the Netherlands when it got stuck on one of the world’s busiest shipping arteries.

According to Lloyd’s List, Ever Given is holding up an estimated $9.6 billion of goods each day: westbound traffic worth $5.1 billion, and eastbound traffic of $4.5b billion. This translates to $400 million an hour in trade along the waterway.

“If you reroute, you pay more [for] fuel and [this] will affect schedules and [mean] less vessel calls. Less vessel calls mean that space will become even tighter now and will affect our exports,” Ronas explained.

He said congestion at European ports may occur as ships blocked from passing through the Suez Canal could arrive at the ports almost at the same time.

Some carriers may come up with contingencies like skipping some ports should other ports be accessible by rail, he added. For example, instead of calling all ports on the itinerary, carriers may call in one port then do a relay from there to other ports.

The delays are also seen to exacerbate the container shortage triggered last year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ever Given’s shipowner, Japan-based Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., has apologized for the incident.

“We are determined to keep on working hard to resolve this situation as soon as possible,” Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd. said in a statement.

“We would like to apologize to all parties affected by this incident, including the ships travelling and planning to travel through Suez Canal,” the company added.

In a situation report dated March 25, Evergreen said that after 48 hours of proactive efforts to re-float Ever Given, the issue “has not been resolved.”

The shipowner assured that the crew, ship and cargo are all safe, and no marine pollution has materialized.

The shipowner has appointed two maritime professional rescue teams from the Netherlands (Smit Salvage) and Japan (Nippon Salvage) to attend the ship. These teams will be working with Ever Given’s ship captain and the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) “to design a more effective plan for refloating the vessel as soon as possible.”

Evergreen said it will also continue to coordinate with the shipowner and SCA to deal with the situation with the utmost urgency, ensure the resumption of the voyage as soon as possible, and mitigate the effects of the incident.

Since the vessel is chartered, the responsibility for the expense incurred in the recovery operation, third party liability and the cost of repair, will be with the shipowner.

Opened in 1869, the Suez Canal is a crucial link for oil, natural gas and cargo. Over 10% of global trade, including 7% of the world’s oil, passes through the canal. – Roumina Pablo