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Suez Canal: furniture, sheep and oil stuck offshore



On the vessel traffic tracking website MarineTraffic, hundreds of small colored dots representing the ships were piling up Sunday off Port Said.

In the Mediterranean Sea, in the lakes that dots the Suez Canal and even forming a line in the Gulf of Suez leading to the Red Sea.

The canal, which sees the passage of about 10% of maritime trade, has been blocked since Tuesday by the Ever Given.

It is a vessel with a capacity of 20,000 containers and 220,000 tons.

It is operated by the Taiwanese shipowner Evergreen, which has caused significant delays in the delivery of some goods.

The total value of the goods affected varies according to the estimates: from three billion dollars according to Jonathan Owens.

Suez Canal

An expert at the University of Salford, to 9.6 billion dollars according to Lloyd's List.

According to MarineTraffic, about 100 ships containing oil or petroleum products were located Sunday in the holding areas.

In reaction to the blockade, the price of black gold rose over the weekend, although the increase is expected to be limited.

1. What is the Suez Canal?

It is a large waterway built by man in the 19th century in Egypt. And it is the shortest maritime route between Europe and Asia.

More than fifty ships cross the Suez Canal every day to deliver goods to Europe or Asia. Sneakers, laptops, electronic components for cars or video games...

All these products, if they are manufactured in Asia, arrive in France and Europe in ships that cross the Suez Canal.

It is one of the main maritime passages in the world for the transport of goods and raw materials.

2. Major efforts to clear the boat

The front of the container ship was stuck in the sand. On land, excavators dug the channel to free the ship.

On the water, tugs, small powerful boats, were pulling the ship to move it. On Monday, March 29, the container ship was finally set straight and the canal was reopened to traffic.

3. Towards "a tragedy" for the animals

Only 1.74 million barrels pass through the canal each day, with 80% of the Gulf oil destined for Europe passing through the pipeline that runs through Egypt.

 According to experts, there are sufficient stocks and other sources of supply.

The uncertainty as to the time needed to refloat the ship raises the question of the supply of crews but also of livestock.:

Eleven ships leaving from Romania and carrying 130,000 sheep are affected.

"The situation is very critical and risks becoming an unprecedented maritime tragedy involving live animals," warned the organization Animals International.

Egypt has sent fodder and three veterinary teams to examine the animals.

Jordan said it was waiting for sheep and calves, among other goods, stuck on ships.

Swedish furniture giant Ikea said it had about 110 containers on Ever Given and others on stranded ships.

Rotterdam-based tea trader Van Rees Group said it had 80 containers of tea on 15 ships blocked.

4. Several days to get back to normal

"I told one of my clients that his floorboards were blocking the Suez Canal, he didn't believe me,."

This was the sentence of the boss of a British woodworking company to BBC on Saturday.

A shipment of French oak floorboards packed in China is on the Ever Given.

Several shipping giants, such as Danish shipowner Maersk and France's CMA CGM, have rerouted some of their ships through the Cape of Good Hope.

A detour that could mean 9,000 kilometers around the African continent, or at least seven extra days - but ships are still arriving at the canal.

In 2020, Suez saw an average of 51.5 ships per day. According to Maersk.,

It would take between "three and six days" to pass all the ships that were blocked on Saturday.

5. A biological time bomb

Gerit Weidinger, European coordinator of the NGO Animals International, alarms the Guardian. Told:

"My biggest fear is that the animals will run out of food and water and get stuck on the ships because they can't be unloaded elsewhere for paperwork reasons,"

These fears echo the tragic sinking of a ship in the Black Sea in November 2019, shortly after it left Romania.

Of the 14,600 sheep on board, sent to Saudi Arabia, only 180 had been saved.

Gerit Weidinger also points to the risk of a "biological time bomb" for the animals and the crew.

 "Being stuck on board means a risk [for the animals] of starvation, dehydration, injuries, accumulation of waste.

So that they can no longer lie down, and the crew can't get rid of the dead animals in the canal."

Further attempts to free Ever Given are planned for this Sunday, which may be aided by a high tide expected this Sunday evening.

6. Critical situation

For the organization Animals International, however, these sheep are in danger of dying.

"The situation is critical and risks becoming an unprecedented maritime tragedy involving live animals," warned its head in Europe Gabriel Paun, in a statement.

 "If the animals lack water and food, they will start to push each other and will all perish," he said.

These fears echo the tragic sinking of a cargo ship in the Black Sea in November 2019, shortly after it left the port of Midia (southeast Romania).

Of the 14,600 sheep on board, only 180 had been saved.

The NGO has repeatedly denounced the conditions of transporting livestock by sea on "ships of death".

Citing cases where thousands of sheep succumbed to thirst or literally cooked alive during the journey in the middle of summer.

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