Suez Canal blockage may disrupt supplies to the region: Ong Ye Kung

25 March 2021 – SINGAPORE

Port operator PSA may see schedule disruptions if the Suez Canal blockage caused by a stuck container vessel is prolonged, said Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung on Thursday (Mar 25).

In a Facebook post, Mr Ong likened the incident to a big tree falling across the Central Expressway, affecting every other expressway linked to it.

“It can mean supplies to the region may be temporarily disrupted,” he wrote.

“Should that happen, some draw down on inventories will become necessary.”

The Suez Canal is a crucial shortcut between Asia and Europe that saves ships from having to navigate around the southern tip of Africa. Roughly 30 per cent of the world’s shipping container volume transits through the 193km canal daily.

Mr Ong noted that to sail around the African continent means the journey would take a week or two longer.

“If the disruption is prolonged, PSA may see schedule disruptions when shipping lines reroute their journeys. It will have to plan ahead and ensure that operations remain smooth,” he added.

“This is another unfortunate incident that illustrates how the world is now so closely interwoven together.”

The 400m-long Ever Given vessel, among the largest cargo ships in the world, got stuck across the single-lane stretch of the southern canal on Tuesday morning.

It lost the ability to steer amid high winds and a dust storm, becoming lodged at an angle across the waterway and blocking transit through one of the world’s busiest shipping channels.

The recovery of the vessel could take “days or weeks”, said the head of a Dutch salvage firm that has sent experts to help with the task.

“We can’t exclude it might take weeks, depending on the situation,” said Peter Berdowski, CEO of Dutch company Boskalis.

A total of 156 large container ships, tankers carrying oil and gas, and bulk vessels hauling grain have backed up at either end of the canal, Egypt’s Leth Agencies said, creating one of the worst shipping jams seen for years.


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