More than 180 ships remain blocked in the Suez Canal in both directions, unable to get through one of the busiest waterways in the world. The Leisure & Outdoor Furniture Association (LOFA) has now learnt that the freeing of the ship may take longer than originally thought.
A huge backlog of vessels is building up amid warnings that the salvage team could need days or even weeks, to prise out the giant container ship that’s blocking the crucial waterway.
Work to re-float the Ever Given and allow passage for oceangoing carriers hauling almost $10bn of oil and consumer goods continued without success on Thursday. Tugs and diggers have so far failed to budge the vessel, and some experts say the crisis could drag on for several days. The Suez Canal Authority has temporarily suspended traffic along the waterway.
Many LOFA members have products on the Ever Given or held in one of the container ships behind the vessel, which means yet another setback for the outdoor leisure industry which is already dealing with issues caused by port congestion, lack of empty containers and rising shipping costs.
The incident began on Tuesday when the Ever Given, on its way to Rotterdam from China, faced strong winds which kicked up sands along the banks of the 120-mile canal. The waterway is less than 205m in some places, and can be difficult to navigate when there’s poor visibility. As gusts that reached as high as 46 miles an hour swept up dust around it, the crew lost control of the ship and it careered sideways into a sandy embankment, blocking nearly the entirety of the channel
At about a quarter mile long (400m) and weighing in at 200,000t, the sheer size of the vessel is overwhelming efforts to dig it out. The vessel will most likely have to be lightened before it can be dug out either end. The salvors may have to lighten the ship by removing things like the ballast water, which helps keep it steady while at sea. Fuel could also be unloaded.
Container ships usually take five to six weeks to travel from China to UK ports, some shipping companies are now starting to divert their ships around the southern tip of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope, which adds about 3,500 miles to the journey and up to 12 days.
This could not have come at a worst time for LOFA Members and retailers with the Easter and May day weekends fast approaching it will mean extra delays for products arriving in the UK.