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HomeBusinessSuez-stuck ship clogs canal as global shipping industry faces rough 2021 seas

Suez-stuck ship clogs canal as global shipping industry faces rough 2021 seas

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Bob Mackin

The global container shipping industry was already making waves before the Ever Given got stuck in the Suez Canal earlier this week.

Ever Given stuck (Suez Canal Authority)

The 400-metre, 2018-built behemoth that can hold 20,000 of the 20-foot equivalent containers was blown off-course by a sandstorm and ran aground. The Egyptian blockage affects more than 100 other ships and will result in delays at ports far from the Mediterranean Ocean and Red Sea.

Global supply chains were already facing a perfect storm of shipping container shortages, port congestion, labour shortages due to coronavirus infections and higher prices.

Los Angeles and Long Beach have seen as many as 40 container ships waiting to enter the port.

Ripple effects have extended up the west coast to Oakland, Seattle-Tacoma and Vancouver.

As of March 9, there were four container ships at anchor and four at berth in Vancouver. By March 24, there were six berthed at Global Container Terminals or Dubai Ports World docks and two at anchor.

“Vancouver gateway is performing a lot better than other ports up or down the coast,” said GCT’s vice-president of public affairs Marko Dekovic.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance, which is the combined Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma, saw cargo volumes increase 9% in January. It reported 21 extra loader vessels by March 9 and extra traffic because of three new lines serving the port: CMA, Wan Hai and ZIM.

“While we are seeing these new lines call our gateway, we are also heavily impacted by the congestion along the west coast,” spokeswoman Melanie Stambaugh said. “The congestion is causing frequent disruptions in vessel schedules, making it difficult for both importers and exporters to plan their shipments. The lack of vessel schedule integrity is causing exporters to lose market opportunities as ocean carriers expedite their services back to Asia.”

Ever Summit at Vanterm (Transportation Safety Board of Canada)

The Panama-flagged Ever Given is part of the Taipei-headquartered Evergreen Transport fleet, which also includes the Ever Summit. The 2007-built, 300-metre Ever Summit crashed at GCT’s Vanterm more than a year ago.

The Ever Summit carries up to 7,024 containers. On Jan. 28, 2019 it had 3,462 containers stacked eight-high above deck when it struck a berth and shore gantry crane at GCT’s Vanterm. The vessel, berth and crane were damaged, but no injuries or pollution were reported according to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

“The investigation determined that the Ever Summit struck the berth after the vessel made a close approach and that the pilot inadvertently gave the assisting tugs the opposite instructions from what was intended during the berthing manoeuvre,” said the Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigation report.

The report found that container ships had been growing in size faster than berths. Over the last 10 years, vessel length had increased 25% at Vanterm.

“Container vessels around the world have increased in size over the last decade,” TSB said. “The growth rate has been primarily driven by liners in search of economies of scale. The dimensions of large vessels pose challenges during berthing.”

GCT is proposing to expand Berth 4 at its Deltaport on Roberts Bank, but is “experiencing significant challenges from our government agency landlord,” Dekovic said.

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