“Traffic Jam” on the Suez Canal

One of the world’s most vital shipping lanes was just blocked by a large vessel, causing traffic on either side of the ship to build up.


The Ever Given, a 400m-long container ship, was hit with a sandstorm on Tuesday, March 23. The powerful winds forced the ship aground, causing it to block almost the entire width of the canal and create a huge traffic jam in one of the world’s most important maritime arteries. 


The Suez Canal is 120-miles long and connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. It carries about 10 percent of worldwide shipping traffic. The Ever Given was heading from China to the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The poor visibility and high winds from the sandstorm caused an “inability to direct the ship,” according to George Safwat, a spokesman for the Suez Canal Authority. By Wednesday morning, over 100 ships were stuck at each end of the canal. 


The potential fallout of the situation was vast. Some of the vessels caught in the bottleneck or expected to arrive there in the coming days were oil tankers carrying about one-tenth of a day’s oil consumption. It “could not have happened in a worse place,” said Capt. John Konrad, founder of the shipping news website gCaptain.com.




Tugboats tried to push the Ever Given free, and a front-end loader worked to dig it out from the canal’s eastern embankment, where its bow was wedged. The continued high winds and size of the ship complicated the task, but after nearly a week, the ship was freed.