The Suez Canal has been a major shipping route since its opening in 1869, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea and allowing vessels to bypass the long and dangerous journey around the Cape of Good Hope. However, in recent years, the canal has been blocked several times due to various causes, causing disruption to global trade and raising questions about the security of the canal. In this article, we explore the causes of these blockages and their impacts on the global economy.
Causes of Suez Canal Blockages
One of the primary causes of Suez Canal blockages is due to accidents involving vessels. In March 2021, the container vessel Ever Given became stuck in the canal after a sandstorm caused it to drift off course, blocking the canal for almost a week and causing a backlog of over 400 vessels.
Additionally, the Suez Canal has also been blocked due to military conflicts in the region. In 1967, Israel blocked the canal during the Six-Day War, and in 2020, Egypt blocked the canal due to a military conflict in the Gaza strip.
Finally, the Suez Canal is also vulnerable to natural disasters such as sandstorms, which can cause ships to drift off course and become lodged in the canal.
Impact of Suez Canal Blockages
The blockage of the Suez Canal has had a major impact on global trade. In 2021, the blockage of the Ever Given caused a backlog of over 400 vessels and an estimated $10 billion in losses to the global economy. Furthermore, the blockage of the canal in 1967 caused a disruption to oil shipments and a subsequent spike in oil prices.
The blockage of the Suez Canal also has an environmental impact. In 2021, the blockage of the Ever Given caused a significant amount of air pollution, as vessels were forced to idle in the canal for days.
The Suez Canal has been a major shipping route for over 150 years, but its blockages have caused disruption to global trade and raised questions about the security of the canal. Blockages can occur due to accidents, military conflicts, and natural disasters, and can have a major economic and environmental impact. It is therefore important for authorities to take steps to ensure the security of the Suez Canal and reduce the risk of blockages.
The Suez Canal, which links the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, is an invaluable route for vessels needing to travel between Europe, Africa and the Middle East. But due to a number of incidents in recent years, the canal has been blocked and delayed, causing huge disruption to international trade.
One of the most recent blockages occurred earlier this year when the massive bulk carrier Ever Given, ran aground in the canal, and blocked it for almost a week. This resulted in a log jam of shipping traffic, with over 300 vessels waiting to pass. The disruption wasn’t just limited to shipping either; several sectors, such as the oil, gas and agricultural industries, were also affected.
So, why does this keep happening? Well, one of the main reasons is the canal’s narrow width and shallow depth. The Ever Given, a huge ship that is over 1,000 feet long and 200 feet wide, is just one of the many examples of ships that have either become stranded or been difficult to manoeuvre through the Suez Canal. There are some measures that can be taken to try and improve navigation, such as widening the canal’s navigable channel, but this is an expensive task and is not always feasible.
Another key factor is the frequency of grounding incidents. These occur when a ship has been hit by a large wave or has moved in a direction that it is unable to move forward due to the lack of steering. This can be partially attributed to human error, such as the improper use of the vessel’s controls, but can also be due to wind, tide and other environmental factors.
Finally, the ever-increasing size of ships is another contributing factor. As large ships become larger, navigating the narrow Suez Canal becomes even more challenging. Furthermore, these vessels are also prone to breaking down, which can lead to blockages.
Although these factors make it difficult to prevent blockages from occurring, there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the risks. These include improved navigation tools and measures, greater oversight of vessel size and traffic, and better training for captains and crew.
Ultimately, the Suez Canal continues to suffer from blockages due to a combination of factors, including its narrow width, the grounding of vessels, and the increased size of ships. However, with careful planning and the right measures in place, it is possible to reduce the risk of these incidents and ensure the continued smooth flow of traffic in the Suez Canal.