One of the world's largest container ships called the "mega-ship" Ever Given for its weight of 220,000 tons and length of 400 meters on Tuesday, March 23, 2021, stuck off Suez's southern tip Canal at about 07:40 local time (05:40 GMT). According to the BBC, the giant container vessel is owned by the Taiwanese shipping company Evergreen. It is registered in Panama and is en route with cargo to Rotterdam's port city in the Netherlands from Yantian in China. Its course is through the Suez Canal on its way to the Mediterranean Sea.

As The Guardian noted, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said the ship lost its ability to steer because of a dust storm that hit the area Tuesday, causing large wind gusts of up to 31 miles per hour.

Eight tugs came to the aid of the giant container ship and worked to free the vessel. But for now, the Ever Given is still blocking the way for boats on both sides of the canal, a vital international trade artery.

Consequences of the blockade of the Suez Canal

More and more tankers and cargo ships are gathering at the canal entrance, waiting to pass through it. According to the research firm Kpler, seven ships carrying 6.3 million barrels of crude oil are among those waiting to pass through the Suez Canal. About 110 boats have already landed on both sides of the affected ship, including five tankers loaded with liquefied natural gas.

The main question now is how long the way will remain blocked.

The owners of all the merchant and cargo ships now stuck near the Suez Canal are losing enormous amounts of money every hour. These prolonged pauses will also create a risk of congestion at ports and could affect oil and gas supplies to Europe from the Middle East. For example, the international benchmark Brent crude price already jumped to $62.52 a barrel on Wednesday, which is almost 2.9%.

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Features of the vessel Ever Given

The Taiwanese container ship Ever Given is one of a new category of ships called ultra-large container ships (ULCS). It is worth noting that some of these types of vessels are even too big for the Panama Canal, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Its size in height is 73 meters, which is comparable with a 20-storey apartment building.

According to the Reuters news agency, the ship can carry 20,000 shipping containers, 20 feet each.

The ship's technical manager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), says all crew members are safe and accounted for. There have also been no reports of possible injuries or environmental contamination.

The importance of the Suez Canal

The Suez Canal is one of the most crucial transport waterways globally, accounting for about 12% of world trade. It connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea and shipping routes between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. It is 120 miles (190 km) long, 24 meters (79 feet) deep, and 205 meters wide. According to the Suez Canal Authority, nearly 19,000 ships passed through it in 2020.

That's an average of 51.5 ships per day.

The canal is significant as a route to deliver oil and liquefied natural gas from the Middle East to Europe. It was why Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi decided in 2014 to expand the vital waterway, and in 2015 it became possible for ships to navigate the Suez Canal in both directions simultaneously, but only in part of the waterway.