Experts are boarding the massive container ship that had blocked Egypt’s vital Suez Canal and disrupted global trade for nearly a week, seeking answers to a single question: What went wrong?
As convoys of ships again began traveling in this artery linking East and West, hundreds more idled waiting for their turn in a process that will take days.
Egyptian government officials, insurers, shippers and others similarly waited for more details about what caused the skyscraper-sized Ever Given to become wedged across the canal’s southern single-lane on March 23.
When blame gets assigned, it could turn into years of litigation over the costs of repairing the ship, fixing the canal and reimbursing those who saw their cargo shipments disrupted. And with the vessel being owned by a Japanese firm, operated by a Taiwanese shipper, flagged in Panama and stuck in Egypt, matters quickly become an international morass.
Experts boarded the Ever Given as it idled Tuesday in Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake, just north of the site where it previously blocked the canal. A senior canal pilot said that experts were looking for signs of damage and trying to determine the cause of the vessel’s grounding.
As of Tuesday morning, more than 300 vessels carrying everything from crude oil to cattle were waiting on both ends of the Suez Canal and in the Great Bitter Lake for permission to continue sailing to their destinations, canal service provider Leth Agencies said.
Analysts expect it could take at least another 10 days to clear the backlog on either end of the Suez Canal.
The unprecedented shutdown, which raised fears of extended delays, goods shortages and rising costs for consumers, has prompted new questions about the shipping industry, an on-demand supplier for a world under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.