Questions about container shipping and the Suez canal

About two weeks ago the container ship Ever Given blocked the Suez Canal for week. All it took was a duststorm and a swing of the ship to block the entire canal. The ship was longer than the canal was wide. This caused major disruptions to the global economy, costing $400 million per HOUR.

The owner and shipbuilder are Japanese (Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd), the operators are Taiwanese (Ever Green Marine Corp) and the captain and crew are Indian. The Suez pilots were Egyptian, the operator is German, the insurer is British, the cargo is from China, the salvagers were Dutch, the ship is Panamanian flagged and the classification society is American. This means that Panama will handle the investigation.

These two photos show how enormous the ship is. The first one shows the excavator to the right. It looks so tiny compared to the ship that you can barely see it.

And this one shows the ship wedged into the canal beside a town. It looks like it is actually the size of a small town. Yet the crew numbers only 25.

I have so many questions…

  • When did container ships get so big? Was it due to economies of scale?
  • As the Suez canal was widened, the ships increased in size. Is this wise?
  • Is our need for cheap goods from China this enormous?
  • Why do so many big companies in Europe rely on components from China? Volvo in Sweden had to stop production during the week the Ever Given was blocking the canal – they had run out of components. Why are they not produced locally?
  • When did we start to rely so much on global supply chains that it makes us so vulnerable during crises like COVID-19 and this ship stranding?
  • Why are so many of the biggest container ships in the world flying flags of convenience?
  • The Ever Given is an Ultra Large Container Vessel (ULCV). How is it possible that they are now building Ultra Ultra Large Container Vessels (UULCV). How on earth can a ship that large be structurally sound?
  • What would happen to the global economy if there was a terror attack or major incident at or near the Suez canal? Talk about a geopolitical chokepoint…15% of global trade passes through the canal.
  • How could we grow to rely so much one one single narrow passage to take us from Europe to Asia?
  • Russia used this crisis to promote the Arctic Northern Sea Route, which is more accessible now due to climate change. The ice was very thin this year. Will we diversify shipping routes in the future so that all our eggs are not in one basket, so to speak?
  • Will the old route around the Cape of Good Hope start to be used again, despite being much longer and more expensive?


Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

One thought

  1. Makes one truly wonder exactly what was in the containers. Something that clearly equates to uuuuuge profits from the sale of whatever they are transporting. EVER GREEN H3RC…. Let’s all wake up to TRUTH.

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