Photos and maps shows how an enormous container ship got stuck in the Suez Canal, blocking one of the world's most vital shipping routes

a fabric surface: Photos and maps shows how an enormous container ship got stuck in the Suez Canal, blocking one of the world's most vital shipping routes (C) Planet Labs via Reuters Photos and maps shows how an enormous container ship got stuck in the Suez Canal, blocking one of the world’s most vital shipping routes

  • The huge Ever Given container ship has been stuck in the Suez Canal since Tuesday.
  • The embarrassing navigational problem has been blamed on bad weather.
  • Pictures show a timeline of the grounding of the vessel that has hit global trade.

The Ever Given, the massive container ship stuck in Egypt’s Suez Canal, has been wedged in place since Tuesday morning. The location of the grounding couldn’t have been worse: the Suez Canal is a vital but narrow link in many global supply chains, and delays there can be felt around the world.

(C) Suez Canal Authority via AP

Egyptian authorities have been scrambling to dislodge the vessel, and – despite one false alarm – have no had full success yet.

Tuesday morning: the Ever Given gets stuck

These maps show that the Ever Given took a meandering route before heading into the canal. The ship, which sails under a Panamanian flag, was headed for Rotterdam, Netherlands, from the Yantian District of China, according to the ship-tracking site Vessel Finder.

Since its grounding became big news, some on social media noted the unfortunate shape traced by its path:

-John Scott-Railton (@jsrailton)

March 24, 2021

A mariner on board another ship, the Maersk vessel MV Denver, later wrote that the Ever Given cut in line ahead of the Denver, as shown in this Instagram comment, which was posted to Twitter by somebody else:

-(A) Radicals are Dead (A) (@oveertlyhonest)

March 23, 2021

At around 7.40 a.m. local time Tuesday, the cargo ship ran aground. At nearly 200 feet wide and 1,300 feet long, it easily took up the width of the channel. The mariner on board MV Denver posted this image of the view:

A post shared by Julianne Cona (@fallenhearts17)

Officials attributed the accident to high winds and sandstorms.

Sandstorms are not unusual at this time of year in Egypt. Early reports suggested that the ship’s power failed, leading it to drift from its course. The was contradicted by the ship’s technical manager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), which said in a statement to Insider that “initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding.”

A satellite managed to capture a view of the Ever Given from space on Tuesday:

a close up of a piece of paper (C) Planet Labs via Reuters

Egyptian authorities attempted to tow the ship

Eight tugs were in action trying to tow the vessel on Wednesday. A satellite image shows the position of the Ever Given, represented by a green dot, surrounded by some of tugs, marked in blue. Their relative size is not to scale.

map (C) MarineTraffic.com

Here is a view of one tugboat, the Baraka 1, in front of the Ever Given, provided by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) on Wednesday:

a small boat in a large body of water (C) Suez Canal Authority via AP

Here is Lieutenant-General Osama Rabie, chair of the SCA, talking to staff on a boat nearby:

a group of people sitting in front of a window (C) Suez Canal Authority via AP

A ‘bulbous bow’ to blame?

Shipping analyst John Scott-Railton, based at the University of Toronto, suggested that the design of the ship’s bow – a large, bulbous prong embedded in the bank of the canal – could help explain how it got so badly stuck.

-John Scott-Railton (@jsrailton)

March 24, 2021

The internet has its say

The spectacle of the stuck ship has attracted onlookers beyond the shipping trade, and soon became memeified.

A particular favorite were references to the spy parody “Austin Powers” movies, in which a vehicle gets stuck in a corridor.

-Zaina Erhaim (@ZainaErhaim)

March 24, 2021

-Emily Janet (@EmilyJanet6)

March 24, 2021

-Dana Magliola (@danamagliola)

March 24, 2021

Shipping companies get tangled up in the delay

In a statement to Insider Wednesday, Danish shipping company Maersk called the Suez Canal is a “crucial” shipping lane. It said seven of its vessels had been held up by the blockage. “Four of them are stuck in the canal system while the rest are waiting to enter the passage,” the statement read.

Satellite imagery below shows the crowds of vessels gathering Wednesday as they try to pass through from both sides.

map (C) MarineTraffic.com

The Suez Canal received an upgrade in 2015, when a newer, large channel was built alongside the one originally opened in 1869. On its opening, Egyptian President Abd El Fattah El-Sisi called it “Egypt’s gift to the world.” According to Prof.

Rocky Weitz, director of the Fletcher Maritime Studies Program at The Fletcher School at Tufts University, the old channel provided partial relief to the blockage. “Ships have been diverted to the older channel to provide some relief to the current blockage,” he told Insider. “But the older channel is smaller, so larger vessels will need to wait until the main channel is reopened.” These side-by-side satellite images show the canal in 2014 (on the left) and 2016 (on the right), after the newer channel was opened:

a map of a tree (C) Landsat

An announcement that the ship had been re-floated was quickly quashed

Hope appeared at around noon on Wednesday.

Shipping agent GAC Egypt, citing the SCA, said that the ship had been moved “alongside” the canal bank, a term which means the ship is parallel to the waterway. “Convoys and traffic are expected to resume as soon as vessel is towed to another position,” read the announcement. However, according to Bloomberg, no such announcement has been made by the SCA.

An assistant manager at GAC Egypt, Ahmed Mekawy, said that the company had received inaccurate information, The Independent reported.

The Ever Given must be moved to avoid major knock-on effects

The Suez Canal is crucial to global supply chains. According to The Wall Street Journal, 19,000 ships passed through it in 2020. Cargo shipping has been under enormous strain in the pandemic, with major difficulties in refreshing crews or servicing vessels, as Insider reported. The Ever Given’s position could throw another spanner in the works.

Weitz, the maritime expert, said that the costs and delay stacked up so far are relatively small, but much longer could be damaging. “If the blockage continues for a week or longer, then we will start seeing major ripple effects across supply chains – particularly for European refineries that depend on a predictable volume of crude oil transiting the Suez Canal by tanker,” he told Insider. Oil prices rose 4% in the wake of the grounding, Markets Insider reported.

map (C) MarineTraffic.com

Nobody knows when the canal will reopen

Before GAC Egypt erroneously posted about the ship being re-floated, it hadn’t given an estimate on how quickly the ship could be moved.

“There is currently no indication of when the Canal will be clear and transits will be able to resume,” it said in a Wednesday statement.

An Egyptian official, speaking on condition of anonymity to the Associated Press (AP), predicted that the operation would take until at least Friday.