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Container ships turn to Cape of Good Hope as Suez issues continue: cFlow


Container ships head south to avoid Suez Canal

Ever Given still blocking Canal as ship queue builds up

  • Author
  • George Griffiths    David Lademan
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  • Richard Rubin
  • Commodity
  • Oil Shipping

The Ever Greet, a sister ultra large container ship of the Ever Given currently blocking the Suez Canal, has turned south on its voyage to Rotterdam and appears to be heading for transit via the Cape of Good Hope, rather than join the ever lengthening queue of ships waiting for the Suez Canal, data from Platts cFlow trade-flow software showed March 25.

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The Ever Greet is a 20,160 twenty-foot equivalent unit container ship.

Most carriers appear to be in wait-and-see mode to see whether this situation clears; however, with many expectations that it would clear overnight into the morning of March 25 proving inaccurate, some are planning alternative routes.

The blockage caused by the Ever Given may not be cleared until March 28 or 29 at the earliest, according to revised port agents' estimates, and even if this is the case, the backlog of ships may mean it could take a further 10 days for ship movements to return to normal.

Most container ships travelling through the Suez Canal are destined for European ports.

One issue considered by carriers are port schedules, as berth windows are precisely scheduled and delays can trigger reverberating issues down the supply chain.

As a result, passage via the southern tip of Africa is starting to appear a more likely route for container carriers, in an effort to try and prevent further schedule deterioration.

"Loadings are huge right now from Asia to Europe, and if carriers can't sail vessels through the Suez, there will be even more congestion at loading ports in Asia," said one US-based freight forwarder. "I'm not surprised they're going around Africa, carriers need to keep their vessels going, they can't just sit in the canal and burn fuel."

This news comes on the back of what appears to be a similar movement by the Hyundai Prestige, a 5,023 TEU container ship currently on its way from Europe to Asia, which is also continuing south, according to cFlow data, rather than turning east into the Mediterranean, in what appears to be a bid to circumnavigate the Suez Canal issue.

Since Ever Given is just around 11 km into the canal in the northbound direction, it will either have to be taken back to north to Suez or forward into the Great Bitter Lake, a maritime navigator tracking the development said.

It is hazardous to repair the container ship inside the canal lanes but after refloating the ship, it can only be moved at a slow speed of around 2 knots and therefore resuming normal traffic can take dozens of hours, the navigator said.