Suez Canal Cleared!

By Olivia Heffernan || Staff Writer

Photo Courtesy of ArabNews.com

Although the topic of shipping vessels is not something that the general public is normally interested in, the hulking Ever Given blocking the Suez Canal was an exception. However, on Mar. 29, the 1,300 foot long Ever Given was finally freed from the vital waterway, allowing over 420 waiting ships to resume their travel through the canal. The Japanese-owned, Panama-flagged ship weighs 200,000 tonnes and was carrying 18,300 containers when it was trapped during the early morning on Mar. 23. 

Because of Ever Given’s size, once it was run aground at both its ends, it managed to block the entirety of the 670-foot wide canal fully preventing any other ships from passing. While investigations are underway regarding the Ever Given’s accident, at the time the ship ran around there were winds of more than 70 miles per hour that had pulled sand into the air, battering the ship and lowering visibility. The rescue process was led by a Dutch team called SMIT with 13 tugboats. Additionally, dredgers cleared 30,000 cubic meters of material underneath both ends of the vessel. After several days of continuous labor and assistance from the high tides, Ever Given was refloated and cleared from the canal. Currently, it is undergoing a safety inspection at Great Bitter Lake, a large body of water along the Suez Canal. 

While a six-day blockage doesn’t sound too significant, the Suez Canal is an essential trade route for world commerce, making this accident a crucial interference. Around 12% of all global trade and one million barrels of oil move through the canal every day. Additionally, before the pandemic, the Suez Canal provided Egypt with roughly 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP). The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) chairman Osama Rabie on Mar. 27 said that the Canal was losing between $14 and $15 million a day. However, as MAERSK pointed out in their Mar. 29 update, “even when the canal gets reopened, the ripple effects on global capacity and equipment are significant” (MAERSK).

Obviously, with an event as dramatic as the grounding of the Ever Given, there comes a great deal of scrutiny. After the ship ran aground, the focus was on Ever Given’s captain Marwa Elselehdar. Elselehdar, 29, is Egypt’s first female ship captain, and in 2017 was honored by Egypt’s president for their “Women’s Day” celebrations. At the time of impact, Elselehdar was working on another ship over 200 miles away from the Ever Given. However, despite this, several outlets reported that she was responsible for the collision. When asked about the false stories Elselehdar said, “I tried so hard to negate what was in the article because it was affecting my repudiation and all the efforts I exerted to be where I am now.” (BBC) Elselehdar also noted that she felt that the negative stories were because she is a “successful female in [the] field or because [she is] Egyptian.” (BBC) Regardless, as the investigation around the Ever Given evolves, it is clear that Captain Elselehdar was not involved. 

Junior Olivia Heffernan is a staff writer for the College Reporter. Her email is oheffern@fandm.edu.

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