Suez Canal Blockage: India chalks out 4-point plan as over 200 cargo ships stuck on carriageway

Suez Canal Blockage
Suez Canal Blockage

Cairo (Egypt) : A massive maritime traffic jam has occurred outside the Suez Canal after a giant cargo ship — Ever Given — got stuck in the vital waterway. Currently, more than 200 cargo ships are stranded outside the Suez Canal, affecting trade worth billions.

The Japanese company Shoei Kisen KK, which owns the Ever Given, is now planning to refloat the vessel by taking advantage of tidal movements later Saturday.

Apologising for blocking traffic, the company said that 10 tugboats have been deployed and workers were dredging the banks and seafloor near the vessel’s bow to try to get it afloat again as the high tide starts to go out.

A team from Boskalis, a Dutch firm specializing in salvaging, was working with the canal authority using tugboats and a specialized suction dredger at the port side of the cargo ship’s bow. Egyptian authorities have prohibited media access to the site.

“It’s a complex technical operation” that will require several attempts to free the vessel, Lt Gen Osama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority, said in a statement.

Attempts earlier Friday to free it failed, said Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, the technical manager of the Ever Given.

The Suez Canal Authority has said it welcomed international assistance. The White House said it has offered to help Egypt reopen the canal. “We have equipment and capacity that most countries don’t have and we’re seeing what we can do and what help we can be, US President Joe Biden told reporters.

India chalks out 4-point plan to deal with Suez Canal blockage

The Centre has chalked out a four-point plan to deal with the situation arising from the blockage of the Suez Canal including advising ships to re-route via Cape of Good Hope.

This plan was chalked out in a meeting convened by the Logistics Division, Department of Commerce, Government of India Friday. It includes prioritisation of cargo, freight rates, advisory to ports and re-routing of ships.

Blockage of the Suez Canal is seriously hitting the global trade, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said in a statement.

The meeting was chaired by Pawan Agarwal, Special Secretary (Logistics) and attended by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, ADG Shipping, Container Shipping Lines Association (CSLA) and Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO).

It was noted in the meeting that over 200 vessels are waiting on the North and South sides of the Suez Canal and about 60 vessels are getting added to the queue on a daily basis, according to the statement.

“If two more days are taken before the efforts result in clearance of the canal (digging on both sides, extra barges being added on every high tide, tugboats, etc. to straighten the stuck vessel), the total backlog created would be about 350 vessels. It is estimated that this backlog should take about a week time to clear out. It was decided in the meeting to closely monitor the situation,” the statement read.

Under the prioritisation of cargo, it was decided that FIEO, MPEDA and APEDA will jointly identify cargo particularly perishable cargo for priority movement and work with the shipping lines for the same.

The CSLA assured that the freight rates as per existing contracts will be honoured.

“A request has been made to the shipping lines to maintain stability in freight rates during the period of this crisis. It was noted that the situation is temporary and is unlikely to have a long-lasting impact,” the statement read.

Once the blockage is over, it is expected that some bunching may take place, especially at the ports of JNPT, Mundra and Hazira, it said.

“Ministry of ports, shipping and waterways assured to issue an advisory to these ports so as to gear up arrangements and ensure efficient handling during the forthcoming busy period,” the statement said.

Besides, shipping lines were advised through CSLA to explore the option of re-routing of ships via the Cape of Good Hope. It was pointed that such re-routing usually takes 15 additional days’ time.

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