Traffic jam at sea

Namibian ports are not affected by an incident in the Suez Canal.

30 March 2021 | Infrastructure

The Namibian Ports Authority (Namport) is monitoring the situation closely in the Suez Canal where the Ever Given, a container vessel registered in Panama, ran aground and became lodged sideways across the waterway last Tuesday.

“The Suez Canal blockage is costing the global economy much more at a time when the supply chain is under severe strain. The possible spin offs for Namport is to provide bunkering services within port limits, the resupply of ship stores and transhipment service for these vessels,” said Elias Mwenyo, the manager for business development at Namport.

Egypt's Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said yesterday that the Ever Given container ship, which has been blocking the crucial waterway for nearly a week, has been turned in the “right direction”.

“The position of the ship has been reorientated 80% in the right direction,” SCA chief Osama Rabie said in a statement.

Over 300 ships were waiting to travel through the canal which is important as an avenue for oil and liquified natural gas, enabling shipments between the Middle East and Europe.

The Ever Given is a Golden-class container ship, one of the largest container ships in the world.

The ship is owned by Shoei Kisen Kaisha, and time chartered and operated by container transportation and shipping company Evergreen Marine headquartered in Luzhu District, Taoyuan City, Taiwan.

Mwenyo noted that the trade lanes feeding the Namibian ports are not affected by the incident in the Suez Canal.

“However, if this problem is not resolved speedily, the shortage of containers will be exacerbated.”

The Suez Canal is an artery of world trade with an estimated 12% of global trade passing through the Canal which connects the Mediterranean with the Red Sea and provides the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe.

The incident trapped dozens of vessels in lines in both directions and resulted in long tailbacks on the waterway.

The SCA reopened an older section of the canal to ease the bottleneck of marine traffic caused by the incident, while diggers tried to free the ship which is wedged into the side of the canal bank.

Container carriers also began diverting vessels around the Cape to keep cargo flowing after the Ever Given became stuck. This passage which is the main alternative, takes considerably longer, adding at least a week to the voyage while burning more fuel.

According to the SCA, nearly 19 000 ships passed through the canal in 2020, on average nearly 50 vessels per day.

A Japanese container vessel blocked the canal after it ran aground after experiencing mechanical issues in 2017. Tug boats were deployed and the ship was refloated within hours.

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