The Suez Canal needs to be upgraded quickly to avoid future disruptions: Shipper

Cairo-Egypt’s Suez Canal must act swiftly to upgrade its technological infrastructure to avoid future shipping disruptions, shipping industry sources said.

On March 23, the international supply chain was disrupted when the 400-meter (430-yard) container ship Evergiven ran ashore on a canal. ..

The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) Chairman Osama Rabbie will take the largest dredger in the Middle East after the ship is finally released and arrange for five more new tugs, and Egypt will have two new tugs next week. Said to receive it in August. Chinese tugboat.

However, according to shipping industry sources, professional equipment and related procedures have long struggled to keep up with the ever-increasing size of commercial vessels.

“The average size of most vessels has increased exponentially over the last 15 years. We were not capable of rescuing these large vessels,” said Peter Townsend, a veteran in the marine insurance industry.

“The problem is unloading containers from a 20-story skyscraper that is essentially offshore.”

Michael Kingston, an international shipping specialist and adviser to the United Nations International Maritime Organization, flagged such an issue in 2013, three years before the MSC Fabiola container ship ran aground, blocking traffic for several days. did.

“The obvious way to lighten a ship is … to remove the container. They didn’t have a way to do it. They didn’t have any immediate equipment available,” he said of the Ever Given case.

Egyptian Coast Guard
On March 30, 2021, the Egyptian Coast Guard will patrol as the ship navigates the Suez Canal. (Tarek Wajeh / AFP via Getty Images)

Lessons learned

According to the SCA, the canal can safely carry ever-given-sized vessels with a maximum capacity of 20,000 TEU (20-foot container), even in stormy weather.

According to industry sources, we need stricter guidelines on how ships pass through the canal, as well as large tugs, dredger and offloaders. These include using tugboats to assist large vessels and allowing only daytime transport.

“Of course, there are many lessons learned from the (Ever Gived) case. Of course, we have the ability,” said SCA rabies.

This week, Egyptian President Abdelfatta Arsisi visited the canal and said, “The Suez Canal … must convey a strong message to the world that it can transport world trade at this speed or faster.”

It was not yet clear whether the canal would choose to extend the second canal to the south of the canal that Egypt opened in 2015 at a cost of $ 8 billion along the 70km section of the canal. .. Such an extension would allow traffic to continue to flow, even if the ship were grounded.

“The expansion of the southern part of the canal may be under consideration,” says Sisi. “It’s up to the technician. I don’t want to take action just in an unusual situation.”

By Patrick Werr and Jonathan Saul