News & Politics

Ever Given Ship Freed After Blocking Suez Canal for 6 Days — and Why It Matters

This satellite image from Maxar Technologies shows the cargo ship MV Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal near Suez, Egypt, Saturday, March 27, 2021. Authorities are preparing to make new attempts to free the giant container vessel stuck in Egypt's Suez Canal for a fifth day and reopen a crucial east-west waterway for global shipping. (©Maxar Technologies via AP)

On Monday morning, a canal service provider said the Ever Given container ship — the 99,155-net-ton ship (220,940 gross tons) that measures 1,312 feet by 107 feet by 47 feet — had finally been dislodged after it got stuck in the Suez Canal and blocked ship traffic for six days.

Leth Agencies, the canal service provider, confirmed that the Ever Given had been freed, was floating once again, and was moving through the canal, the Associated Press reported.

NBC News foreign correspondent Raf Sanchez shared a video on Twitter of the ship moving again.

At least 369 vessels are waiting to transit the canal, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said, according to Reuters Container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers, liquefied natural gas (LNG) vessels, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vessels had all been stranded for days, according to SCA Chairman Osama Rabie.

“We will not waste one second,” Rabie told Egyptian state television.

The Suez Canal is a historic feat of human engineering. For millennia, no viable water route existed between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Goods from India and China, which easily made the sea transit to East Africa and Arabia, had to travel over land via the Silk Road — a much slower and more perilous journey for merchants. Ancient kings and emperors attempted to create canals to link the Red and Mediterranean Seas, but each attempt failed.

Following the lead of Portugal, seagoing European kingdoms traveled south around the entire continent of Africa in order to reach the East. In fact, Christopher Columbus reconnected the Old World with the Americas during his search for an alternate route to Asia.

Only in 1869 did a French company finally complete the 120-mile Suez Canal, reducing the distance between the Arabian Sea and London by approximately 5,500 miles (or 8 to 10 days). In 2020, more than 18,500 vessels traveled through the canal, for an average of 51.5 per day.

The Suez Canal is a key driver of globalization. The six-day blockage translates into key delays for global commerce — although the long-term effects of this blockage remain unclear. Ultimately, globalization has made human beings across the globe far richer than they would have been otherwise, but this incident reveals that even the global economy is vulnerable to freak accidents.

The incident has also proven fertile ground for memes. Photos of a tiny tractor attempting to dig the enormous Ever Given out of the mud went viral, and Twitter users rushed to assign personal meanings to the iconic image.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

Cargo Ship Stuck in Suez Canal Is Wreaking Havoc on Global Supply Chains